The Null Device

71 years of jetlag

Spain is looking at changing its time zone. While its longitude is close to Britain's, Spain shares with the rest of western and central Europe the condition of being one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This state of affairs originated during World War 2, when the dictator Franco unilaterally changed Spain's timezone to match that of Germany, in solidarity with the Nazi regime; what the iron fist of fascism put in place, inertia kept in place, leading to a national case of jetlag:
"Because of a great historical error, in Spain we eat at 2pm, and we don't have dinner until 9pm, but according to the position of the sun, we eat at the same time as the rest of Europe: 1pm and 8pm," explained Professor Nuria Chinchilla, director of the International Centre for Work and Family at the IESE Business School. "We are living with 71 years of jet-lag, and it's unsustainable.
Another thing that needs to change is late-night prime-time TV, said Buqueras. "In England, the largest TV audience is at 7 or 8pm, but in Spain, it's 10pm. Because at 8pm in Spain, barely 50% of the population is at home, and you have to wait until 10pm to find that number of people at home, thus guaranteeing the viewing figures needed for prime time. Sometimes football matches don't kick off until 11pm!" he said.
All of this means people go to bed far later than they should and get less sleep than they need. Studies suggest Spaniards sleep an hour less than the rest of Europe, which means more accidents at work, less efficiency, and more children missing school. Additionally they work longer hours than their German and British counterparts, but are much less efficient.
Any change to Spain's time zone is likely to also result in an end (or at least a great reduction) to the traditional siesta, the midday break for a long lunch and a nap.

There are 3 comments on "71 years of jetlag":

Posted by: Greg Tue Oct 8 12:07:12 2013

France could almost mount a similar argument?

Posted by: acb Tue Oct 8 12:36:03 2013

France could, though about 1/3 of it is east of the east coast of Britain. The question is whether the difference between natural and nominal time (which is lesser than Spain's) is more or less of an issue than being in a different timezone from its neighbours.

Though nowadays that computers and GPS chips are dirt cheap, why not abolish timezones altogether and just have the local solar time for each area (with people in, say, Strasbourg going to work slightly earlier than they do in Paris), with UTC serving for things that need to be global and aren't dependent on sunlight or body clocks?

Posted by: Greg Wed Oct 9 13:23:16 2013

I'd be interested to see an argument for the abolition of time zones. I imagine their main function is coordination of people who are semi-nearby each other. That was the complaint about Qld's refusal to follow the southern states into daylight saving - it was difficult to coordinate cross-border phone-calls and the like.

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