28 March 2022

It's time to ditch daylight saving - for good

| Ian Bushnell
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Sunrise

A perfect Canberra sunrise, but the ‘benefits’ of daylight diminish as the sun rise later. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Next Sunday, the ACT gets to go back to God’s time, and it can’t come soon enough.

Ever since summer faded away, we’ve had to get up in the dark, and by now, it is well after 7 am that the sun finally greets us.

Each morning it seems like you’re up preparing for one of those all-day drives to Queensland, sitting down to breakfast in the dark and heading off in the post-dawn glimmer.

For those of us who like to get a decent walk or run in before work, it’s one of life’s great joys to be out with the first rays of the day and the refreshed earth.

But it’s been pitch black for weeks now, so not only does it feel not so safe but also depressing under streetlight rather than the promising glow of the eastern sky.

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After the deep of Canberra’s icy winter passes, the return of the sun to earlier times comes as a great relief. But just as we warm to more morning light, daylight saving descends like a curtain and we’re back in black.

Sure there is no theft of time, just manipulation to adjust our timetables, so there appears to be more evening light.

So why do we do it?

The original argument was that it saved energy, but the evidence on that is mixed at best. And I don’t know if needing to light up the house at 7 am achieves that.

It’s also for recreation or getting a few jobs done after work. The trouble is, in Canberra, the evening is the warmest part of the day. In summer, that usually means taking shelter, not pounding the pavement, cutting the grass or even alfresco dining.

Ask any parent what it’s like in high summer to have the light going strong at 9 pm and trying to put small children to bed.

When we turn our clocks back next week, our bodies will undergo the annual physical adjustment, a week or two of jet lag as the body clock adapts.

Apparently, it’s prime time for heart attacks too.

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The United States Senate recently passed a bill to make daylight saving permanent. One of the arguments is that the spring and autumn adjustments are health hazards.

Other ailments include emotional and behavioural disorders, depression, stress-related immune disorders, poor gut health and accidents.

But don’t even think about daylight saving all year round. Imagine what a July morning in Canberra would feel like.

Being out of sync with the natural rhythm of the day, especially if it means missing out on that nurturing morning light, just isn’t good for you.

There are plenty of studies about the health impacts of shift work and daylight saving falls into that category, especially if it runs from October to April.

Research points to daylight saving causing sleep loss, especially when people are trying to cram extra activities into the back end of the day when the body should be really winding down in preparation for that rejuvenating seven to eight hours in the sack.

In a society where sleep deprivation is the new normal, that’s not good.

Queensland has long been the outlier when it comes to daylight saving in Australia.

It cost the state cricket team a Sheffield Shield one year, and the Sunshine State is often the butt of jokes about its backward ways, fading curtains and cows that won’t give milk.

But in this, it has got it right, and the clue is in its name – daylight saving – Queensland just doesn’t need it.

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Here in Canberra though, along with NSW and the rest of them, the owls rule, and the larks are forced to go along with it.

It may not be a high order issue in these disturbing times, but it would not take much to admit the twice a year time trick is a failed experiment that just doesn’t deliver the benefits proponents say it does and causes a bunch of problems that we don’t need.

God’s time has worked since the beginning. That’s good enough for me.

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vyt_vilkaitis4:14 pm 12 Apr 22

Get rid of it – its a waste of time.

US Congress just legislated to make daylight saving permanent. Don’t know how this would work in northern climes in winter? Children struggling to school in the freezing dark!

No way! I thoroughly enjoy daylight saving time. Unfortunately, it’s coming to an end for another year.

Bill Wilkinson3:46 pm 30 Mar 22

Any human anywhere can decide to go bed and wake up when they like.

God has nothing to do with those decisions.

I thoroughly agree. I go running at 6:30am, because I need to in order to get the bus to work, which is now dark, and there are many others out there, working on their health and exercising dogs etc (and it would be dark by 6pm in winter even if DLS went all year, which would still mean I would not have time to run outside after work because I am not home in time). And by the end of March it is darker in the mornings than at the winter solstice. It needs to at least end earlier.

Murray McCulloch11:13 am 30 Mar 22

God didn’t invent timezones, humans did. Humans also invented God.

Thank you Murray McCulloch for such a succinct, sensible reply to this ridiculous article.

Ian Bushnell – For what it’s worth, Australia adopted GMT offset time around 1895. Prior to that, time was observed differently between towns… much more confusing than changing a clock twice a year. And no. The G in GMT does not stand for God.

Ian would also have us believe that daylight savings is the leading cause for heart disease, cancer, and alzheimers?!
Take a breath mate, your going to be ok.

Just have DS Dec, Jan and Feb – that’s it

swaggieswaggie12:42 pm 29 Mar 22

Keep daylight saving time all year round for me, Id much rather have some extra light in the evening and if you’re getting up in the dark then just own it and look on the bright side 🙂

Sounds like Ian needs a job that rolls with the clock. Maybe scrap the desk bound job, and work a farm. Better yet go back to candles and oil lamps. Then he can really set his body clock to the sessions. If he doesn’t like being set to a clock, maybe it’s time to negotiate his work times and stop complaining.

Andrew Sutton8:18 pm 28 Mar 22

Our climate and positioning is perfect for daylight saving so whilst it should remain it could end a week or so earlier as the mornings feel more like winter.

Couldn’t agree more. Manipulating time is bad for our body. I always feel miserable during the changeover period. Is there a petition that we can sign to ditch daylight saving?

As Ian mentions, permanent daylight saving is also unhelpful to our body clocks, sleep rhythms.
I note also there has been discussion of 35 hour or even four day working weeks.
So, what is accomplished by daylight saving that would not be accomplished more amenably by leaving our clocks (and stresses) alone, simply deleting the last working hour of each day?

Further to this, given a 4-day week is a nominal 32 hours, we could work 7 hours in Summer (equinox to equinox) and 6 in Winter when there is less light, knocking another half hour off each end of the day. That averages out to 32.5 hours per week, or just over a 4-day week but more sensibly arranged, and retaining every existing benefit of daylight saving without the problems.
Alternatively, if you are conservatively keen on daylight saving as it exists, change working hours by regulation, not the clocks. This eases co-ordination year round in a connected world. Remember, many countries do not even share our season boundaries let alone synchronise clock shifts.
When the sun is at its Zenith, it is noon. Everything else is arbitrary, and potentially discomfiting to our physiologies.

Nothing worse than still having sunlight at 8pm especially for people who have to get to bed early or struggle with sleep.

On the contrary, it’s great to be able to do an evening run while it’s still light rather than always after dark.

The worse thing about daylight saving times are the switchovers. To me the extra hour is neither here nor there. Ian Bushnell must never have lived in Europe or North America where getting up and going home in the dark is the norm in cooler months. I guess in the US they would rather see some sunlight in the late afternoon. There are some parts of Australia where daylight saving makes no sense such as the NT, the northern parts of Queensland and WA, as well as western South Australia. I quite enjoy the longer hours of afternoon daylight where you can sit outside with the drink of your choice, listening to the birds, mentally solving the world’s problems or just having some down time before dinner.

Instead of getting rid of it, daylight savings should be made permanent, all year round.

Having evening sunlight for recreation time is far superior to having that time in the morning when the vast majority of people are simply waking up and getting ready for work/school etc. Daylight savings clearly benefits the majority of people.

I agree, and have said this for ages.

Jenny Graves3:10 pm 28 Mar 22

I agree too. In the UK, for a few years they had Daylight Savings Time and Double Daylight Savings Time. It made the evenings bearable, as it was still light after work all year round. Then someone decided that it was dangerous for children walking to school in the dark. Total rubbish!

I agree 100%. That extra light in the evening is way more useful than in the morning when you have kids.

I also agree that extended daylight hours are more useful in the evening when one can be outside enjoying them. We don’t all get up at the crack of dawn.

The darkness and short days are a consequence of the direct relationship between planet Earth’s orbit of the sun and its daily rotation on off centre axis. There will always be dark mornings at some
Point during each year. Daylight savings only shifts the darkness to make better use of daylight hours.

Best suggestion I heard was to permanently move forward by half an hour – no more 6 monthly body clock shock, we still get most of the daylight savings benefit in summertime and the slightly earlier starts in winter have a payoff in a bit more light at the end of the day. However, good luck trying to get consensus on this move between the ACT, NSW, and Vic – let alone Qld…

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