Time to give an official adieu to summer with the end of Daylight Saving.

THE CRUEL and unforgiving sound of an alarm clock on a cold, dark October morning is one of those little, unpleasant experiences in life we all share – but can’t do much about.

However, the week following the end of Daylight Saving Time, the last Sunday of October each year, gives the entire population of the EU the chance to win one over their morning nemesis. Many of us are woken up a whole hour before that unforgiving “beep, beep, beep” by our biological rhythm, which cannot keep up with the sudden change.

Whilst it’s an old and much discussed idea, modern daylight saving was first officially proposed only in 1895 by an eager entomologist George Vernon Hudson. Getting an extra hour’s sleep in the autumn wasn’t Hudson’s motivation, though; he simply felt there weren’t enough hours in a day to collect insects. Despite the suggestion being discussed widely from then on, Hudson had to wait for another 21 years to see it come to fruition anywhere in the world.

It was wartime Germany that, in an attempt to save coal, first made use of the proposal and implemented daylight saving on 30 April 1916. Inspired by the German example, many other industrialised countries followed suit within a few years. Finland only adopted the practice in 1981.

Yet, the positive effects of daylight saving have been questioned by some. Tuuli Lahti, a researcher at Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare has come to the conclusion that putting clocks forward an hour confuses most people’s biological rhythm for up to a week, making sleep less efficient. Elsewhere, studies have pointed to an increased number of heart attacks and accidents following the biannual shifting of clocks.

The use of daylight saving is often justified by alluding to the energy its saves. This answer does not satisfy Lahti, who doubts the environmental benefits of daylight saving. “Some studies have even suggested that the system increases energy consumption, quite opposite to the original purpose,” she offers.

“When we know that transitions in and out of summer time also cause mild symptoms such as headaches and other jetlag-like symptoms in some people, it is difficult to justify the existence of this system.”

However, for those not affected by the time change, and those not interested in preserving insects, daylight saving isn’t often a matter of crucial importance – until the last Sunday of April, when an hour of precious sleep is mercilessly stolen from us!

Aino Bain

Daylight saving ends 31 October.