S’poreans’ sleeplessness stem from being in the wrong time zone?

A lot of Singaporeans are up before the sun rises. And that's not normal.

By Belmont Lay | May 11, 2017

If the geographic division of time zones around the world is strictly adhered to, Singapore would fall within the GMT+7 region. GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time. Singapore’s natural time zone should be seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Instead, Singapore is GMT+8.

Hence, as strange as it looks, Singapore and Bali share the same time even though that looks impossible on the map.

So, how did we get to this moment in time?

The short answer is that West Malaysia follows the time zone for East Malaysia, and Singapore follows West Malaysia.

On Jan. 1, 1982, Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia went from GMT+7:30 to GMT+8, a gain of half an hour when the territories jumped ahead in time to be in line with East Malaysia.

West Malaysia had decided to change its time zone so that the entire country of Malaysia would be on the same time, which saw Singapore follow suit to facilitate business and travel between the two countries.

And prior to that, Singapore’s time zone experienced a few shifts.

Time zone and body clock

Biologically-speaking, our body clock syncs with the natural clock of the sun. It has been the case since humans migrated out of Africa, the cradle of civilisation, millions of years ago. So, Singapore was closer to the natural order when she was at GMT+7:30.

As Singapore is in the “wrong” time zone by being an hour off now, a lot of Singaporeans get out of bed before the sun rises at around 7am.

Because if we adhered to GMT+7 — the correct time zone — the sun would rise at around 6am and most people will wake up naturally with the sunlight and carry out the tasks of the day until the sun sets and wind down.

These days, though, people are up earlier than sunrise by a few hours and go to bed much later, which reduces the sleep time.

However, Singapore is not at its most out-of-sync time zone as she has switched time zones a few times.

During the Second World War, Singapore adjusted its clocks from GMT+7:30 to GMT+9. This was so as the Japanese occupiers wanted all of Malaya to follow Tokyo time.

This was shifted back to GMT+7:30 after the war ended in 1945.

A common time zone for Asean as a whole was even previously mooted, but to pull it off would probably take a lot of political will from all the various countries involved.

And this will throw even more bodies off sync considering the spread of countries across multiple time zones.


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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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