Daylight Savings

Reporter: Andrea Burns

Most people today are chronically sleep deprived. Evolution really intended us to have about 10 hours sleep out of every 24. From Perth... to Vancouver in Canada..A city of just over half a million people. They experience mild summers.. And cold winters - but not too bad for the northern hemisphere. During summer.. The sun's out for up to sixteen hours a day .. 8 in the height of winter.

Neil, explain why does Vancouver have so many hours of daylight? WA Meteorologist Neil Bennett..."Well it really is down to where Vancouver sits in relation to the equator and the pole are as well the earth itself is tilted at an angle of around 23 and a half degrees which is the reason why we have the seasons and when we look on the little map here we can see the sun's rays as you go further north will actually cover a larger area of the globe"

Bright summers, big stars - Alanis Morissette is one of Canada's most famous exports.As well as Bryan Adams...and K.D Lang. It's a country famous for spectacular ski fields and the best maple syrup on the planet. And even though Canada is half a world away from us, we do have something in common - daylight saving.

Doctor Stanley Coren works at Canada's University of British Columbia. He's found any disruption to our daily patterns - including daylight saving - can lead to sleep deprivation - and a dangerous condition labelled microsleep. "That's where the brain goes into a sleep state for a period of ten seconds to a minute no matter what it is that you are doing."

This is how it can happen... even with eyes open, if a person's in microsleep they fail to respond to outside information. The person may not even know they've gone into a microsleep state. They won't see a red traffic light, a pilot might not see flashing lights in a cockpit. Potentially deadly

"Imagine you're driving down the street at normal speeds so 30 miles per hour, 50 kilometres an hour and you have one of these microsleeps, well your car is going to travel more than the length of a football field while you're fast asleep." Dr Coren's scientific study looked at how daylight saving affected road safety as a result of these microsleeps.

"In fact we found on the Monday following the shift to daylight savings time there was a seven per cent increase in accidents." Indeed on WA roads, the number of road smashes has increased over the past two years. in 2006 there were 201 road fatalities. 2007 there were 235. Obviously daylight saving isn't the only cause, but experts know fatigue kills.

Doctor Coren says essentially, it comes down to the amount of light around when you're on the road - and in some instances daylight saving can actually HELP drivers. "During the period of daylight saving we've centred the light around the work hours.. overall the traffic accident rate is lower.. we really do drive an awful lot better when there's a lot of light so taken overall the use of daylight savings time really is a way of promoting road safety."

Kimberley's a New Yorker, married to a Canadian. Like the rest of these Canadian experts, they now call Perth, home. And they all grew up with daylight saving. "You always wonder when you're going to get that extra hour of sleep that you lost, back and it takes a while to adjust"

But like many West Australians, their opinions on whether we need daylight saving here, are divided - so too, the impact on their sleep. "I think in Canada it really is suitable but, I find the Perth climate it's not suitable, it's so much hotter here"

"It takes me about a week to adjust my sleep cycle but for somebody who's spent a lot of his life flying around, that's a minor type of change" "Something like 70% of us are tired each and every day, so we're performing below our best, not feeling good and are probably an accident risk" Dr Neil Stanley is an English sleep expert - he also says even small disruptions to slumber patterns can lead to low grade exhaustion - a condition he calls semisomnia. "Evolution has told us to be awake during the day and asleep at night but now the 24/7 , the human body is trying to catch up with where we are, so we know that poor sleep increases the risk of obesity, depression, even divorce"

It takes about twenty hours to fly from Perth to England.. The home of Big Ben... the Tower of London.. and of course, the Queen... As well.. all that warm beer and a reputation for wet weather. Neil Bennet ..."people in Perth when you say you're going to go to London they go ooh, you'd better take a rain coat ooh you're going to get soaking wet but the reality is, we get more rain here in Perth" Really... statistics prove it, "rainfall in Perth is condensed into this 3 or 4 month period whereas in London it tends to fall all the way across the year" But just like Perth, London has one hour of daylight saving. It's a city with a population topping SEVEN MILLION. In summer, the average temperature is 18 degrees. Winter temperatures are low . daylight - in winter the sun's up late and sets late afternoon. Summer it's light until after 9.30.pm. "As a society we don't treasure sleep although it's one of the best things we can do for ourselves and that's the worry we have."

Doctor Stanley believes daylight saving's shift in time is annoyance all of us could do without. "It's enough to make you feel jaded, you want to eat at different times and you're forever looking at your watch, thinking I can't go to bed now because it was 10 o'clock and now it's 9 o'clock and all that sort of thing and you're slightly out of kilter with your day."

"Being English we love the sun and we get to play footy or whatever after work and it's probably why we're all ere to get the extra sun" These people escaped Britain for Perth's sunny shores. "I've been here for about 8 months now and it's the same back at home, you obviously lose an hour when you come in but it's not really a problem so I've always enjoyed the sun" Generally, they like daylight saving at home. "It means you can get home from work, you can go out go for a hike or something, get back to the pub before it gets dark" Gemma's not sure we need it here. "I don't understand what the point of it is though, I don't see what it achieves"

Dr Neil Stanley says from a health and lifestyle point of view West Australians have got a good balance without needing another hour of light, and an hour less sleep. He accuses our leaders of fiddling with our health, for political points. "I think Western Australia has survived perfectly well without having it. You've had few gos at trying to impose this. It's not worked. It's not been popular. I don't think there's any necessity for a fourth go at imposing it if you haven't got it, you've survived without, you don't need to do it this time"

For more information about visiting Britain, - http://www.visitbritain.com.au/