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When the clocks change in the UK, and how Coldplay's Chris Martin is involved

When the clocks change in the UK, and how Coldplay's Chris Martin is involved

Clocks change. (Getty Images)
It's nearly time for the clocks to go forward. (Getty Images)

At a certain point, every spring and autumn, we start wondering when the clocks might change, whether they are due to go forward or back, and if this means we'll lose or gain an extra hour in bed.

To put you out of your misery, they're due to go forward at the end of this month, on Sunday, March 31 to be precise, which means (probably what you want to know the most) we'll frustratingly lose an hour of sleep — but the days will be getting longer and lighter, which is a bonus.

But when exactly do they change, why and will this keep happening each year?

When are the clocks changing in March 2024?

In spring the clocks always go forward at 2am on the final Sunday of March, which this year falls on the Sunday of Easter weekend, March 31.

However, it means losing 60 minutes of snooze time and makes way for brighter mornings and longer evenings.

It's at this point we will switch from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) (the period of time when they are one hour backward) to British Summer Time (BST), when there's more daylight in the evenings, albeit slightly less in the mornings.

This is sometimes called Daylight Saving Time (DST).

As well as rolling forward every spring, the clocks also go back every year on the last Sunday of October.

Do we have to remember to change the clocks ourselves?

While your smartphone or device will change automatically, you'll have to remember to adjust the time on your watch, clock, oven, car or anything else with manual settings.

Spring forward concept. Alarm clock, pen and notepad. Daylight saving time.
The clocks change twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. (Getty Images)

When did we start changing the clocks?

Benjamin Franklin first came up with the idea while in Paris in 1784, suggesting that getting up earlier when it was lighter would help save on candles.

But the concept only made a real impact in the UK when Coldplay's Chris Martin's great-great-grandfather, builder William Willett, advocated for making the clocks go forward in spring and back in winter to benefit from longer days and less energy usage.

In 1907 he published a leaflet called The Waste of Daylight, encouraging people to get up earlier, reminiscent of Franklin. While it was discussed by the government a year later, it didn't end up being made a law due to divided opinion.

Watch: Here's how Daylight Saving Time affects your health

It was, however, later enforced in 1916 (a year after his death) by the German government and army during the First World War, with the UK doing the same a few weeks later, along with many other nations involved in the war.

DST was adopted in many countries in the years afterwards.

Why is the clocks changing controversial?

While on the one hand its benefits are clear, imperfections have also been a cause for debate since the clock changing introduction.

In the past there have also been some shifts in the change, including British Double Summer Time during the Second World War (1939-1945), changing the clocks to two hours ahead of GMT in summer and keeping one hour in advance in winter, and between 1968 and 1971 being put forward but not back as an experiment.

This was discontinued due to the difficulty of assessing both the advantages and disadvantages of BST, according to Royal Museums Greenwich.

We will get an extra hour in bed this Sunday as the clocks go back an hour. (Getty Images)
We will get an extra hour in bed this Sunday as the clocks go back an hour. (Getty Images)

Will the UK ever stop changing the clocks?

Of course, we've long been used to changing our clocks twice a year, with the 1972 British Summer Time Act starting the tradition of putting them forward in late March and backwards in late October (the same for most European countries).

In 2019, however, the European Parliament supported a proposal to end the tradition in European Union (EU) states (when we were still a member), with nations due to change the clocks for the last time in 2021.

But this was stalled as the EU member states couldn't agree, so continued to change the clocks.

Following this decision, a YouGov survey showed that the majority of Britons (59%) would opt to remain permanently on summer time, sacrificing light in the morning in the winter for more daylight on summer evenings.

While we are no longer in the EU, in recent years it has been considered whether or not the UK will get rid of DST.

Night view busy UK Motorway traffic jam at night.
The clocks changing has been linked to an increase in road accidents. (Getty Images)

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is all for this due to road safety concerns, stating in October 2020: "One of the consequences of the UK’s system is that more people are killed and injured on the road because of darker evenings in the autumn and winter than would be if we abolished the clock change and adopted British Summer Time all year."

It added, "RoSPA is calling on the UK government to consider whether the current clock change is still beneficial, or even necessary. A move to British Summer Time (GMT+1) all year round could save an estimated 30 lives by providing an extra hour of daylight during Autumn and Winter. RoSPA are in favour of this proposal, which is realistically achievable in the current climate."

Others have complained about the inconvenience of having to change routines, with some experts and studies suggesting it can affect factors like circadian rhythms, sleep and health.

While it's an ongoing debate, for now, don't forget to change that clock. And enjoy your extra hour!

Daylight savings: Read more