Changing The Clocks To British Summer Time: Good For “Larks”, Bad for “Night Owls”:

Do you know who invented the proverb “Early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise”? It was Benjamin Franklin, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the USA. Do you agree with him? John Ciardi, a 20th century American poet, for one, was unconvinced. He observed that it tends to be the poorer-paid “unskilled labour” who have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to work, whereas professional employees usually don’t have to be at their desks until 9 am and so can stay longer in bed – unless they are commuting in from a long distance.

In London , at least some of the passengers taking buses and the underground away from the city centre during the morning rush hour have for sure just finished preparing  the offices for the staff who are about to occupy them. This impression is reinforced by employment sites such as “jobrapido” and “total jobs” advertising for “cleaning operatives” available between 5.15 am – 7.15 am, 5.30 am – 8 am or, as with one vacancy posted on “JobisJob.uk” – “Monday to Sunday cleaning, to be done after 1 am but before 6 am:£8 per hour”.

Franklin’s assumptions about the supposed benefits of being an “early bird” have been disputed by many recent investigations into the variations in people’s sleeping habits. A survey conducted by Aachen University in Germany concluded that only 10% of those questioned could be categorised as “morning persons”. The “Sleep Doctor” Michael J Breus has noted in The Huffington Post that “Some studies have shown that people who stay up late are more productive than early risers and have more stamina throughout the day” Furthermore, that “night owls” display greater analytical abilities and achieve greater financial and professional success than their “earlier-to-bed counterparts”.

The Daily Mail journalist, Fiona Macrae, has taken a similar view, citing research carried out at the University of Liege in Belgium suggesting that individuals who prefer to go to bed late may often be “cleverer than larks, with quicker minds, better memories and earn higher salaries.”

This analysis furthermore highlights the fact that famous night owls include historical figures such as the  Prime Minister during the 2nd World War, Sir Winston Churchill (“who regularly went to bed at 4pm”), the rock singer Elvis Presley, the French novelist Marcel Proust, the evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, as well as current celebrities such as ex-President Barack Obama and guitarist –vocalist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Indeed, it is thought (according to Macrae) that the division into larks and owls “has its roots in evolution, with early risers in the Stone Age taking the initiative in gathering food, while the owls stood guard at night”. The results of all these surveys, Macrae has pointed out, will be welcomed by “anyone fed up with being branded as lazy because they love a lie –in”.

Nevertheless, there are – as John Boitnott, a contributor to “Business Insider” has emphasized – at least four clear advantages in getting to the office earlier than your colleagues: You’ll avoid either the “bumper-to-bumper traffic” if you’re driving or being crushed by the crowds if you’re using public transport; Most offices are relatively quiet until 9 am, so you can make progress with your projects before everyone else arrives; If you’re an employee, you’ll impress your boss as being  “a hard worker dedicated to your job”; You’ll be better prepared for office meetings because you’ll have had more time to prepare your list of issues for the discussion.

As from next Sunday 26th March, when the clocks go forward from 1 am to 2 am, we’ll all, whether larks or owls, have to get up one hour earlier – until 29th October, when the clocks go back again. A poll conducted by YouGov has revealed that, although young people generally approve of this system, the over- 6o’s would like the practice of changing the clocks twice a year to be abandoned. A previous YouGov poll indicated that 53% of those questioned supported moving Britain’s clocks forward permanently by two hours so our time would be the same as in Continental Europe .In view of Brexit, that’s now unlikely to happen.

The BBC’s “iWonder site” has queried whether changing the clocks has become a complete waste of time. The idea was initially introduced in 1916 during the First World War, “so there would be one hour less artificial lighting needed in factories, to save fuel costs”. Today, however, “there are no clear arguments for or against Daylight Saving Time (DST) as an energy saver. Now it’s all to do with money and politics”.

The Bloomberg commentator, Ben Silverman, on 10th March dismissed DST as “dumb, dangerous and costly”. The suffering caused by the springtime change, he argued, begins with “messing with sleep schedules, which can result in more car accidents”. The Campaign For Real Time, is similarly totally opposed to DST, on the basis that the Government is “unjustifiably forcing us all to change our clocks and so get up earlier”. What right, they demand, has the Government to decide when we start work and “more to the point, why does everyone have to get up at the same time anyway”?

The Conservative MP, Ian Duncan Smith, a former Work & Pensions Secretary, has told the Daily Mail that the Labour Party “hates people who get up early in the morning and work to get a business off the ground, take risks, earn money and create jobs”.

Meanwhile, on the morning of Monday 27th March – whatever category we belong to – we’ll have to make sure we don’t arrive late to the office, a university lecture or for an important appointment.

Filed under: Society | Posted on March 22nd, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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