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Already? Why I don’t like Daylight Saving Time anymore

I haven’t blogged yet this month and suddenly it’s mid-March already. Tonight we set the clocks ahead one hour. This time of year brings out a predictable spate of articles about the history of Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings” Time) and partisans on both sides weigh in.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that they hate changing the clocks. I used to not mind it as much as I do now, but that was before it was so G-d-awful early in the year. Daylight saving time started in the USA in 1918 with the idea of saving energy. That means it is 100 years old this year. I actually remember the biennial clock ritual as a child with a little fondness. Thinking it through helped me understand clocks, timekeeping, time zones, circadian rhythms, and jet lag a little better. And somehow the stakes were lower for sleeping in.

But we don’t currently observe your grandfather’s Daylight Saving Time. The first federal standards established that DST would start on the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October. But in 2007 and 2008, DST was extended by another month, into March and November. This extension was politically motivated and driven by candy and golf industry lobbying. The hoped-for energy savings have not materialized.

This is when I started to get angry about this issue. Nobody asked us: there was no popular vote on this change, and no consideration for what the time shift does to the human body clock.

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Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything. It just shifts light from the morning, when it is needed to entrain the body’s internal clock, to the evening, when it contributes to insomnia. Especially when instituted so early in the year, before the equinox (before the day is even as long as the night) it puts everyone in a state of perpetual eastward-going jet lag.

The body’s clock never actually adjusts to daylight time. The spring forward clock change is associated with a 25% increase in the risk of heart attacks  and an increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following the time change (Be careful out there!) And it’s in exactly the wrong direction to help sleep-deprived teens be able to get up for school. Daylight Saving Time is one of many factors that disconnect humans from the natural world.

I think we should just end this 100-year-old experiment altogether, and live on standard time all year round. But I’d settle for a return to the standards of the 1960s and early 1970s, when turning the clocks ahead really meant the coming of spring.

ClockGermanTown

 

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “Already? Why I don’t like Daylight Saving Time anymore”

  1. My state is considering abandoning switching back and forth. Not sure if they are heading towards just staying on the Daylight Saving schedule or staying on the standard time schedule. To be honest, I really don’t care which it is so long as we quit this bouncing forward and back again ritual.

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  2. Hi Karen – I have to say I don’t mind it … but this is is the first year I’ve been over here … and in England DST starts at the end of March – makes more sense …I shall see how I feel tomorrow – fortunately the weather seems to be good! Cheers to everyone … and our longer evenings, though no extra hours … Hilary

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    1. I didn’t mind it either before the latest extension in 2007/8. I can understand the appeal of longer evenings in the summer. But
      I think the most recent extension was a bridge too far. When the change happened in April the sun was up early enough that you could lose an hour and still get up with the sun.

      These dark mornings are dangerous for kids walking to school, too. In 1974/5 when they had year-round DST to supposedly save energy (a reason that’s been largely debunked), something like 8 kids were hit by cars and killed while walking to school.

      Usually I’m pretty skeptical about complaints of “government overreach” but this issue made me understand that point of view better. We didn’t even get to vote on the 2007/8 extension. It was rammed through the government at the behest of corporate lobbyists. If they hadn’t done that I don’t think I’d be complaining about DST at all.

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  3. I am totally with you on this. The days will get longer regardless of what we do. Since I leave for work at 6:00 am, I had gotten used to seeing a little bit of the sunrise – now it’s gone again.

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  4. I LOVE Daylight Saving Time! Yay spring… yay summer! I always looked forward to the time change when I was young (more daylight at the end of the day to go out and play) and when I was working (no darkness driving home and more daylight at the end of the day to enjoy my evenings). I thought it might change when I retired since I can essentially make my own hours, but I’m still doing the DST happy dance!

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    1. But isn’t even spring yet, let alone summer! Messing up the clocks doesn’t make spring come any faster. What I’ve never understood about these arguments in favor of DST is that there isn’t actually any more, or extra, light. It has to come from somewhere and so you end up having to get up before you can even see the butt crack of dawn. Apparently some people don’t mind this, but biologically I don’t get it. There are real neurological mechanisms by which light at certain times is necessary for entraining the biological clock. But the difference in response is probably genetic and related to night owl/morning person differences. That’s why I think we actually need to keep the compromise and keep switching the clocks, because doing one or the other year-round is going to make some people really unhappy.

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      1. I’m pretty sure most (I would hope all… but…) people realize that there aren’t truly any extra hours of light. I just prefer my light quotient at the end of the day, rather than at the beginning. There are many harbingers of spring that I love, but don’t make it come faster (baseball spring training, the sighting of my first oriole, outdoor furniture displays at Target 🙂 ). Here’s a compromise: stop switching the clocks, but leave them on DST. 🙂

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      2. Oh dear, that is no compromise at all.

        I don’t really understand how people tolerate the dark, cold mornings. As I said, I think it must be genetic. People have different “chronotypes,” related to night owl and lark tendencies. But even if it were genetic (or especially if it is), I wish people would make more of an effort to understand the other side’s point of view. I am trying to understand people who want light in the evening, so I’m willing to keep switching the clocks to make them happy for a while, even though I’d personally prefer getting rid of DST completely.

        But I’ve never met a pro-DST partisan who was even willing to consider my point of view. That’s actually why I wrote this blog post. What about the dark mornings? What about the findings of chronobiology, that light in the morning is better for your health and sleep? Does none of that matter at all?

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