Daylight Savings: When Is It, Why It Happens, and How It Works

daylight savings time

It’s the most confusing time of the year yet again, when the very concept of time reveals itself as an illusion that we’re all choosing to collectively indulge in.

Daylight savings happens in Australia twice a year — once when the clocks go forward and once when the clocks go back.

Not all of the country participates in the shift which transitions Australia from having three time zones to five. The southern states will be putting their clocks forward soon and gaining some extra daylight in the evenings.

It’s a weird and slightly annoying thing that society does but there are solid reasons for the change as well as some serious health implications for it.

Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about daylight savings time.

When is Daylight Savings Time This Year?

This Sunday, 3 October 2021, clocks go forward in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, effectively eliminating the hour between 1am and 2am.

Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not engage in the fantasy of clock-shifting, and time remains constant in these regions.

This means that those in the daylight savings regions will ‘lose’ an hour, and collectively exist one hour in the future.

The answer to the question on everyone’s minds is that yes, you’ll get less sleep this time around but at least it will be lighter in the evenings.

Clocks will then go back an hour at 3am on Sunday, 3 April 3, 2022.

How Does Daylight Savings Work

Because the Earth’s axis is tilted, the sun rises and sets at different times during the year — this is why we have seasons.

That shift is more pronounced at the poles and less noticeable at the equator, meaning that, throughout the year, places like Tasmania and Northern Scandinavia or Canada get extreme changes in sunrise and sunset during summer and winter.

If we didn’t adjust the clocks to correct for this shift, the sun would rise in Sydney at 4:30am in summer and 7am in winter. Because we prefer it to be lighter during working hours, we move civic time around to get the best results.

Notably, places like WA and the NT don’t choose to change their clocks because, being closer to the equator, the changes in daylight are not as drastic — consistently voting against the introduction of daylight savings in referenda.

Interestingly, QLD had daylight savings up until 1972 before voting to scrap it. It was again introduced between 1989 and 1992 but has since been abandoned.

Now, though, recent surveys have shown that the majority of Queenslanders want daylight savings back, with research indicating that the state loses $4 billion every year because of the lack of sunlight affecting tourism.

Finally, daylight savings has an impact on our sleep cycles, making it harder to wake up in the mornings and difficult to go to sleep at night. There is even evidence that it increases the rates of depression, heart attacks, and strokes.

While it normally takes a few days to adjust to the change, Associate Professor Mark Stokes from Deakin’s School of Psychology recommends an early morning walk, strict bedtime routines, and afternoon naps will help those struggling to cope with the shift.

Why Was Daylight Savings Time Created?

While it’s often cited in anger when we lose an hour of sleep, daylight savings has very little to do with helping the farmers.

Harvests are based on the moisture content of the grain or the plants being harvested, which remains unaffected by the time of day. Artificial light is typically used in harvesting nowadays anyway, so messing about with the clocks has little impact.

Daylight savings in Australia was initially introduced in 1916 to help conserve fuel during the war effort. It was only used for one summer before being reintroduced during WWII.

While it is sometimes still cited as a way of conserving energy across the states that employ it, the research doesn’t bear this out.

Economists from the University of Adelaide measured Australia’s energy consumption during daylight savings and found that, while it did change when people used electricity, there was no overall decline in the amount of electricity used.

However, it does ‘smooth’ energy usage, meaning you get fewer spikes in demand on the grid and thus a lower risk of overloading and blackouts.

So, for better or worse, daylight savings is likely here to stay in the southern states as overall the net benefits of the shift are generally regarded as good. Even if we will be getting less sleep this weekend.

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