You already know daylight saving time (DST) as the changing of the clocks that robs you of an hour of sleep in the spring and gifts you with an extra hour each fall. What you may not know is that it was first implemented in Thunder Bay, Canada in 1908 as a way to preserve daylight hours in the winter months. DST was later adopted by Germany and Austria in 1916 during World War I as a way of reducing energy costs. The practice of observing DST was introduced in the United States in 1918 as part of the Standard Time Act enacted by Congress. Today, about 70 countries around the world utilize DST, but there are movements underway to change that, both at home and abroad. Find out 11 more things you never knew about DST.
There are two states in the United States that opted out of DST decades ago. Today, several other states including Florida, California, Delaware, and Maine are considering following suit and businesses and organizations including Colorado-based National Grocers’ are pushing these initiatives forward. Here’s a longer explanation of the DST dilemma that states are facing.
These movements aren’t just happening in the United States. In 2019, parliament in the European Union voted to eliminate the twice-yearly clock change; member countries have until April 2020 to vote on the proposal that would eliminate DST permanently after 2021.
So what would it look like if we all just gave up on turning our clocks?
Whether you’re changing the clock forward or backward, it can have a negative impact on a person’s circadian rhythm. It can take five to seven days for your body to adjust to the new time schedule, reports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and that disruption in sleep can lead to even bigger health issues.
Reduced risk of heart issues
Research has found the spring DST changes are associated with a 24 percent increase in acute myocardial infarction (AMI) events on the Monday following the change and switching our clocks may increase the risk of heart attacks. While the research hasn’t indicated why this may be, those who experienced an increased risk were mostly people who were already predisposed to experiencing heart issues. Still, if ending the time change could lower the risk, it’s possible that more lives could be saved.
Reduced risk of strokes
Similarly, research has found an increase in hospitalizations for stroke in the two days following the DST change, with the overall rate of ischemic strokes being 8 percent higher in those days than any other time of the year. The American Academy of Neurology speculates this may be because of the disruption in circadian rhythms caused by DST, as previous studies have shown that can play a part in increasing a person’s risk of stroke.
“A major con that comes with DST is that it’s very costly for companies since business hours and operations need to adjust every spring,” says Liz Brown, the founder of Sleeping Lucid. In fact, experts estimate the bi-annual time change costs the United States around $430 million every year. The increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries, and lowered productivity all account for the added costs.
Fewer auto accidents
The changing of the clocks has also been associated with an increase in fatal auto accidents, particularly the Monday following the spring shift. It’s theorized that these auto accidents occur because of drivers who are tired from losing the hour of sleep after the spring change. If ending DST could reduce the number of fatal accidents taking place, that’s certainly more beneficial than ending Leap Day would be.
While there is plenty of research to back up the health and cost savings of ending DST, it’s worth noting there are some who would suffer negatively if we stopped changing our clocks. “Religious Jews and Muslims attend daily prayer services at their synagogues and mosques based on sunrise and sunset,” says Rabbi Moshe Davis of Brith Sholom Beth Israel in Charleston, South Carolina.
“If DST is removed, it will be almost impossible for these religious people in some parts of the country to attend prayer services in the morning and then get to work on time. For example, in Atlanta, sunrise on December 15, 2020, will be at 7:35 a.m. So morning prayer services that begin at sunrise can conclude by 8:15 a.m. and people can likely make it to work by 9:00 a.m.,” notes Davis. “However, without DST, sunrise that same day would be 8:35 a.m., which means morning services would not finish until 9:15 a.m.” This would make it a challenge for religious Jews and Muslims who work nine to five to attend services and get to work on time.
Changing crime rates
One other consideration to keep in mind with DST is how it impacts crime levels. Research has found that extending evening daylight hours, as we do in the spring, crime rates actually go down with robberies being reduced by 7 percent than the day before, and overall crime going down by 27 percent in the additional evening hour of sunset gained on that day. However, another study found that with the extra hour gained in the fall, assault rates were up by 3 percent on the Monday following the time change.
But what time should we use?
One of the many issues surrounding eliminating DST is, is it better to stay on DST or standard time? “Different countries, climates, time zones, and energy grids often have competing arguments for more daylight in the early morning vs. extended daylight in the evenings,” says Baron Christopher Hanson of Red Baron Consulting, who lobbies for setting the clocks at DST and keeping them there.
“The argument for keeping DST as a permanent U.S. lifestyle fixture is that it greatly benefits health, outdoor activity, tourism, the culinary industry, and especially our vast golf, tennis, and parks and recreation investments,” he says. “Extended daylight hours allow outdoor restaurants, golf courses, parks, and patio or rooftop bars to see sunsets well past happy hour and into dinner time, as opposed to forcing everyone into dismal darkness just before standard 5 p.m. business hours come to a close.”
But it’s not just tourism and the ability to enjoy time outside that Hanson is concerned about. “Early darkness also leads to depression, less outdoor activity, and health problems—especially in winter months.”
For Hanson, it all comes down to one simple question: ‘Why turn God’s beautiful and natural light off early, when every single day of the year can be so easily extended for everyone in America to enjoy?”
While there appears to be rare bipartisan support for making DST permanent and putting an end to the time changes, most states will still turn their clocks forward and backward for the foreseeable future. If you have any trouble adjusting to the time, these top sleep products on Amazon can help make catching zzzs and waking up easier.