It’s almost time to spring your clocks forward again! Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of daylight saving time is, and how it got started? Daylight saving time, also known as “daylight savings time” or “daylight time” (the correct term is “daylight saving time” in lower case, not upper case, according to the Associated Press style book), is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. Believe it or not, the concept of DST started way back in 1895 as the brainchild of one George Hudson, a British-born, New Zealand astronomer. It took a few years to catch on, with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary organizing the first nationwide implementation starting on April 30, 1916, as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year, and the United States adopted daylight saving in 1918. [Wikipedia]
Broadly speaking, most countries abandoned daylight saving time in the years after the war ended in 1918 (with some notable exceptions including Canada, the UK, France, Ireland, and the United States). However, many different places adopted it for periods of time during the following decades and it became common during World War II. Daylight saving time was discontinued federally after the end of each World War, and from 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law regarding daylight saving time, so states could choose whether they wanted to observe it or not. In 1967, the Uniform Time Act established a new federal daylight saving time, with states able to opt out of observing the practice. Daylight saving time became widely adopted in North America and Europe starting in the 1970s as a result of the energy crisis, but today some states are proposing bills that would allow individual states to opt out, while others are asking for legislation that would keep daylight saving time’s hours in effect all year long, resulting in additional daylight in the evening hours.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation is in charge of time in the U.S. This includes time zones and daylight saving time.
- Only two states – Hawaii and Arizona – do not observe daylight saving time.
- Eight months of the year are in daylight saving time, and only four months are in standard time.
- During the 1970’s energy crisis in the United States, Congress ordered states to observe daylight saving time year-round from January 1974 to April 1975.
- Twenty-six states want to observe year-round daylight saving time. Florida could be the first.
Besides losing an hour of sleep in the spring and getting it back in the fall, how does switching to daylight saving time affect our lives? Most people look forward to daylight saving time in the spring because it signifies the beginning of the time when we can leave work at the end of a day and still enjoy a few hours of daylight. This can mean more time for sports activities, and for those families with children involved in after school practices and games, that can make a big difference.
Does daylight saving time affect our health? Timothy Morgenthaler, Mayo Clinic’s co-director of the Center for Sleep Medicine stated, “Ever since the institution of daylight saving time, there has been controversy regarding whether it accomplishes its goals or not, and if so, at what cost.” Gaining or losing an hour will likely affect sleep patterns for about five to seven days, according to Morgenthaler. People who are already sleep-deprived will feel the effect the most, and might struggle with memory, learning, social interactions and overall cognitive performance. Morgenthaler said that people are sleepier and notice a change in the quality of their sleep more by the “springing forward” aspect of DST than when we “fall back.”
What would you do if your state had daylight saving time all year? Would you get outside more? Change your work schedule? Go to bed earlier or later? When asked “What would you do with more time?” people said:
- Spend time with family/children
- Learn a new language
- Get outdoors more
- Travel more
- Exercise/Train for a sport
- Pursue a passion
- Take care of stray animals
- Volunteer more/Do more charity work
- Go back to school/further education
- Be more adventurous
- Do more fun things
- Get more sleep
Sometimes, it seems like we’re all just too busy just being busy. Daylight saving time or not, it seems as though we all want more time in any given day, and if we had it we know just what we’d do with it (even it was to waste a little extra time, just because we can!) While we can’t make more time in the day, we can all make more effort to do those things we wish we had more time for by making those things our priority. If you feel as though you don’t have time to do something you’d really like to do, why not schedule it? Put it on your calendar, and you might find that you have more time to do those things you’re passionate about than you realize.