The Netherlands must decide to use a permanent summer or winter-time over the next year. Sleep researcher Marijke Gordijn from the University of Groningen has an alternative: pin Dutch time to British time.
Translated by Thomas Ansell
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that, according to Gordijn, the British use of time is the best for our biological clock. “At the moment, the Netherlands sits within the Middle-European time zone, which is adjusted according to Berlin. And in the summer, we sit along with Lithuania and Ukraine in the East-European time zone. But if we look at the placement of the sun, then the Netherlands is only at home within the Western-European time zone: Greenwich Mean Time.”
The European Union would like to finish with the half-yearly change between summer and winter time. Countries themselves must choose in which time zone they would like to be permanently included. But for the Netherlands, there is no choice to align with the UK time-wise. Gordijn: “The EU wants member states to make the choice between the current summer or winter times. But I think that it is very relevant to research whether it is possible to change to British time, because it is much better for our health. It’s never been thought about before.”
If British time were to be brought in to the Netherlands, the sun would set at half past four in the afternoon, meaning it would be dark from around four. According to Gordijn, that’s not a problem: “If we tag ourselves to the British time zone, then it is healthier. Through the right amount of morning light, our biological clocks can reset, and if we take less evening light in the summer, this promotes a better night’s sleep.”
According to Gordijn, the Dutch government should consider the switch to British time seriously, and undertake research into the feasibility of the idea. “If using British time is found to be untenable, then the current winter-time is a good second choice.’ As long as the Netherlands doesn’t choose to tack to permanent sumertime: ‘then it is better to change the clock every six months.”
Gordijn feels that permanent summer time isn’t healthy. “Because the light stays longer, the biological clock shifts, and people will [go to] sleep later. Whilst the following day, they still have to wake up early. In particular, during the winter months this disturbs your rhythm and you sleep substantially more. It is only really light after 10 o’clock in the morning, whilst your biological clock must reset to the available morning light. A break in sleep through disturbed rhythms leads to a short-term loss in concentration, and increases possible traffic accidents. In the long-term, it brings health problems, such as cancer and heart and vascular diseases becoming more common.”
It would also be an economic win if British time or winter time was adopted, says Gordijn too. “Businesses would benefit from more healthy workers.”
According to recent polling, Dutch people are for Gordijn’s proposal. Around 41 per cent are for a permanent winter-time, whilst 27 per cent would prefer a permanent summer-time. Around a quarter of Dutch people (24 per cent) would prefer to stay with the current system of resetting the clocks each half year.
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