Thursday 17 January 2019

We're turning the clocks back this weekend - here's everything you need to know about time-change

Antonia Molloy

Spring forward; fall back. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the country will gain an hour’s sleep (whoooo) as the clocks go back so the country returns to GMT.

At 2am on 29 March, civil time in Ireland will be back-tracked one hour, heralding brighter mornings and the winter season. It's called 'Greenwich Mean Time' (GMT).

In today’s digitalised world many people don’t have to worry about adjusting the hands on a clock - but here’s the reasoning behind it.

When do the clocks go back?

This year the clocks will change at 2am on Sunday 29 October, going back by one hour, putting the UK back on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). This means you should put your clocks back at 2am on Sunday 29 or, failing that, before you bed down for the night on Saturday.

Why do we have the time change?

The idea of British Summer Time was first proposed in the UK by William Willett, who happens to be the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. He felt that valuable daylight was being wasted in the mornings during the summer months because people were still in bed.

In 1907 he published a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, in which he outlined his plans to change the time of the nation’s clocks. But when he died in 1915 the Government still refused to back BST.

It wasn’t until a year later, in May 1916, that Britain passed the Summer Time Act and started changing its clocks twice a year. Ireland followed suit.

What are the benefits?

Proponents argue that British Summer Time is good for physical and psychological health, particularly in terms of relieving the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The changes mean lighter evenings are said to reduce road traffic accidents and crime and, for GMT in the winter season, lighter mornings reduce traffic accidents.

And the downsides?

Well, there’s always the risk of turning up late for a family dinner/ football match/ church service. But, on a more serious note, critics have said that changing the clocks is economically and socially disruptive, therefore cancelling out any benefits.

There are also a number of theories that suggest putting the clocks forward has a negative impact on the human body –  in 2012 a University of Alabama study found the risk of a heart attack surges by 10 per cent on the Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks forward.

What is British Double Summer Time (BDST)?

In 1940, during the Second World War, clocks across Britain were not put back an hour at the end of British Summer Time, in order to save fuel and money.

However, in subsequent years, they continued to be put forward an hour each spring and then put back an hour each autumn until July 1945. This meant that during these summers the UK was two hours ahead of GMT .

When will the clocks go forward again?

The clocks will go forward by an hour on Sunday 25 March 2018, when the UK reverts again to British Summer Time (BST), when there is less light in the mornings and more in the evenings.

What other countries change the clocks?

The majority of countries in Europe use it apart from Belarus, Iceland, Georgia and Armenia, and the whole of the United States employs DST apart from Hawaii and part of Arizona.

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