It’s about to be 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 means Australia transitions from having three time zones to five. The southern states will be putting their clocks backward soon and losing some 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.
When Does Daylight Savings End This Year?
On Sunday, April 2, 2023, clocks will go backward in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. They’ll go from 3am to 2am, effectively giving millions of Australians an extra hour of sleep.
Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not engage in the fantasy of clock-shifting, and time remains constant in these regions.
Clocks will then go forward an hour at 3am this October when daylight savings starts again.
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 choose not to change their clocks because they’re closer to the equator and the changes in daylight are not as drastic.
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 if you’re struggling 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.