Shedding Some More Light on Daylight Savings

This past weekend, people were probably having a typical Sunday night: plowing through backlogs of procrastinated work, mourning the loss of yet another weekend and preparing themselves for another dreary Monday. As I was doing just this, I checked my phone for the time: one second it read 2:00 AM and the next it said 1:00 AM. After the initial heart attack and serious debate about whether I had lost my mind, I realized that daylight savings had ended. I thought “Oh, right, this is something we still do.”, and went on to try to remind myself why.

What is it?

What daylight savings does is take an hour from the morning and give us an hour in the evening, essentially extending daylight for the time of the day a majority of us are awake and working. Daylight savings was implemented in 1986, and since then it’s benefits and drawbacks has been subject to heated debates.

Does it work? 

Everyone’s heard the rumors about it existing for the benefit of farmers: more hours of sunlight mean more time for crops to grow. However, studies show that farmers actually lobbied against the bill at the time of its installment, possibly because they would lose an hour of daylight in the morning to get to the market on time, and because livestock may not have adjusted as well as we do to the change. [1]

The energy debate has also been up in the air for quite a while. Quite simply put, daylight savings should save energy because longer hours of sunlight mean fewer hours during which we need indoor lighting. However, when the idea for DST was proposed, people still lit their homes with candles, and things like air-conditioning and cars were not common household luxuries. Statistics show that today, more energy is spent because of daylight savings. Lighting makes a smaller percentage of total energy consumption than it used to: people stay out longer and use fuel from their cars, or they use more air-conditioning when it’s sunny out. [2]

Even from the point of view of basic, human well-being, just this one-hour difference disrupts people’s schedules and makes them more prone to accidents. This interference in circadian rhythms could also potentially exacerbate depression or other disorders that benefit from routine consistency. Way back when, it helped the war effort by increasing productivity during the daylight hours, but we don’t work strictly 8 hour days that depend on sunlight anymore.

With all this challenging, it’s important to acknowledge that there still are potential benefits. More daylight hours mean that people can spend more time outdoors exercising (even though working out indoors has become significantly popular in recent years). Although schedule changes can make people tired and more accident prone, accidents are still much less likely to take place in the daytime than after the sun sets.

Although DST has become such a regular and accepted part of our seasonal schedules– in fact, devices set their clocks back automatically now so we literally do not have to think about it –I think it’s eye-opening to think about how much thought went into that sixty-minute difference. It’s ridiculous how many changes an hour can trigger, I’m talking about even waking up the morning after DST begins and ordering a venti instead of a grande at Starbucks. Like B.J Novak tweeted: “Daylight savings is some shady accounting.”

 

 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-daylight-saving-time/2015/03/06/970092d4-c2c1-11e4-9271-610273846239_story.html?utm_term=.36c1ad611169

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/12/us/daylight-saving-time-farmers.html

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