Daylight Saving Time (DST), aka the thing that causes you to gain or lose an hour twice a year and feel confused about it for a couple of days, doesn’t necessarily make sense in the modern age. Now that we have access to electric light, making summer evenings longer in order to increase productivity isn’t necessary. And no one likes the part of winter when the sun goes down in the middle of the afternoon.
The basic idea behind Daylight Saving Time: In the spring, the clocks move ahead by one hour so that the evening has more daylight, whereas mornings have less daylight. In the autumn, the clocks move back by one hour.
Multiple people have been credited with inventing Daylight Saving Time. Benjamin Franklin pondered the idea behind DST in a letter he wrote in 1784, where he called for the people of France to sleep when it was dark and wake up when it was light rather than relying on clocks.
In 1895, a New Zealand bug collector named George Vernon Hudson proposed advancing the clocks by two hours each summer so that he would have more time to collect bugs after work. And in 1907, Englishman William Willett wrote a pamphlet where he proposed moving the clocks forward by 80 minutes over the course of four Sundays each April, and moving them back over four Sundays in September.
In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson signed Daylight Saving Time into law in order to “support the U.S. economy during World War I both by lengthening the workday and reducing the need for lighting in the evening hours, saving energy,” according to TIME. The measure was repealed after the war, but many states continued observing DST in some capacity. In 1966, Vox reports, “the federal government mandated that all states had to do summer daylight saving time — unless the whole state opted out — and specified the start and end dates.”
Even today, Daylight Saving Time is still not universal across the United States. “Hawaii and Arizona—with the exception of the state’s Navajo Nation—do not observe daylight saving time, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands also remain on standard time year-round,” History.com says.
Critics of Daylight Saving Time point out that the time change isn’t just inconvenient — it can be dangerous. Reuters covered a 2014 study, reporting that “switching over to daylight saving time, and losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 percent, compared to other Mondays during the year.” Conversely, “heart attack risk fell 21 percent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time, and people got an extra hour’s sleep.”
A 2001 study from Sleep Medicine looked at car crashes around Daylight Saving Time, finding that “there was a significant increase in accidents for the Monday immediately following the spring shift to DST… there was also a significant increase in the number of accidents on the Sunday of the fall shift from DST.”
Furthermore, the switch to Daylight Saving Time has been linked to an increase in workplace accidents, according to a 2009 study from the Journal of Applied Psychology. The consensus: Cutting into people’s sleep, even by one hour, has real consequences.
Daylight Saving Time also means that, in some places, the sun sets around 4 PM in wintertime. That’s just one of the reasons some politicians in Maine and Massachusetts are calling to get rid of DST entirely, switching to a standardized time zone.
The question remains: is Daylight Saving Time still relevant — or worth it?
Featured image: Black Salmon/Shutterstock
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