A Franco-era decision to adhere to Central European Time is to blame for everything from poor productivity to a low birthrate. But that could change

Spains made Tv program for children, MasterChef Junior, had 3 million young viewers glued to their television until after 1am on a weekday. That described the criticism of Spanish MPs, who called for the nation broadcaster RTVE, to schedule programmes for children to finish no later than 11 pm between Sunday and Thursday.

Their parliamentary motion rightly was contended that television viewing habits play a part in our countrys absence of nocturnal rest. As in many modern nations, many people habitually use television, computers or phones late at night: Children who dont get enough sleep exhibit problems such as irritability, sleepiness and a lack of concentration, the MPs said.

In the MPs parliamentary motion, they pointed out that the whole country suffers from sleep deprivation and that Spaniards in general sleep an average of an hour less than other Europeans.

It is no accident that the Spanish are sleeping an hour less. Spain is in the incorrect day zone. Madrid is almost directly south of London, so it should be in the same period zone as the UK, yet for over 50 years the country has adhered to Central European Time. In 2013 a Spanish national commission looking at this issue revealed that Spaniards sleep 53 minutes less than the European average, and that the matter is level of sleep loss created absenteeism, stress, work-related accidents and failure at school.

We often think that the siesta and a supposedly sleepy stance to life entail Spaniards have time for sleep, and are able to reap the benefits; or that there are cultural reasons for their sleep behaviours. This couldnt be further from the truth. The Spanish work longer hours than almost all their European equivalents. And the reason they might appear to have a sleepy approach to life is that they genuinely are sleepy the working day long. Spain has a dysfunctional hour system that deprives everyone in Spain of an hour of sleep every day.

In addition, Spanish workers typically work 11 -hour days, from 9am to 8p m. With dinner at 9pm and a couple of hours of Tv, they tend not to get to bed before midnight. So its not surprising that the birth rate is plummeting.

In December 2016, Spains employment minister, Ftima Bez, announced a pushing to abbreviate the working day, to 9am to 6pm. She said that the government would also deem, as part of a series of measures designed to improve work-life balance, reversing the Franco-era decision that set Spain in the wrong period zone. If it succeeds, then Spain will be leading the way in building societys period both more scientific and more practical.

Spain is not alone in having period zone fights. Both China and India have a single time zone, deliberately established in order to bring the population closer together. Beijing Standard Time is set to suit the eastern part of the country. The mismatch is greatest in the westernmost province of Xinjiang, where ethnic divisions result Uighurs to use a period system that runs two hours later than that used by the Han population. Another bad time-zone practice daylight savings time is still rife globally, as in the UK, and has the same negative impact for half the year that Spain suffers all year long.

There is nothing unique about Spains concern with children and adults watching TV and using screen-based technologies at night, leading to sleep disruption.

Siestas are not at fault either, with countries such as Egypt, India, and Mexico having remainders during intense heat. In Egypt for example, agricultural workers and their families slept more than families in Cairo, despite having to have midday sleeps, and bed-sharing being widespread. Spain has the chance to transform the countrys utilize of day. Adequate time to sleep will improve the populations health. The quality of life will be enhanced. Sensible working hours will improve productivity and performance. Changing the countrys utilize of time would be essentially free, and could bring huge gains.

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