This weekend, on Saturday night into Sunday, most European countries will switch from the Daylight-Saving Time (DST) to Standard Time. Which means that we will gain one hour of sleep. At three in the morning, it will in fact be two o’clock.
Since a 2001 European Decree, all EU Member States must switch to DST on the last Sunday in March and return to the Standard Time on the last Sunday in October. But what impact does this time change have on our body?
A one-hour change doesn’t seem like much, but truth is that this time change has a bigger impact on you than you might think.
Dr Laury Lyall, a Research Associate from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow explains that the change into DST has an important impact on health since we lose one hour of sleep and it takes a few days to adjust to the new time.
“There is even evidence on increased numbers of heart attacks in the days following the switch to DST; sleep and circadian factors are closely linked to cardiometabolic health,” Dr Lyall said.
The good news is that the change happening this weekend takes us back to Standard Time, “when it is easier for the body clock to adjust to external time as indicated by the sun,” Dr Lyall said.
One difficulty that people might experience on Sunday, Lyall pointed out, is “waking up too ‘early’ for a few days and maybe losing a bit of sleep because of this.” Thus, it seems that this time change is well suited for people who have a late chronotype (those who go to sleep and wake up late).
However, according to Professor Russel Foster, the director of the Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute (SCNi) at the University of Oxford, most people find themselves sleep deprived after the switch back to Standard Time. That is because: “people think ‘Oh, I got a whole extra hour’ and do lots and lots more things and therefore end up losing the hour that they gained.”
What late chronotypes need to do is correct the drift to a later time by getting morning light exposure to advance the body clock to an earlier time. The later the chronotype the more evening light exposure they had seen which fits beautifully because evening light delays the body clock and makes you get up later.
Nevertheless, with the EU’s vote in favour of the abolition of the time switch, there are some chances that the UK will abandon this biannual habit too.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK would be eligible to decide if the country will keep the time change or not.
However, if the UK leaves with a deal, the UK will have no other choice than to respect and apply the laws set by the EU during the transition period expected to end in late 2020 (with the possibility of one extension of a maximum of two years).
In the case of an extension, UK citizens will most likely find themselves changing their clock for one definitive time in March 2021, when the law will be applied to the EU.
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