Here we go again. Get ready to “spring-forward” and set the clocks ahead on Sunday, March 13 at 2am to observe the start of Daylight Savings Time (DST). How did this odd custom get started? Why do we lose an hour of sleep each spring only to gain it back in the fall?
How Daylight Savings Time Got Started
Believe it or not, it was Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who suggested in a 1784 essay that people should get out of bed one hour earlier in the spring and summer to enjoy more natural light.
Then, in 1895, a New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed the modern version of DST to give him more time in the evenings to collect insects. The weird idea gained traction in Europe during WWI to save coal. The US adopted DST in 1918, but it was repealed the following year. DST was reinstated during WWII, but at the war’s end states and cities were free to decide whether to observe it or not. In 1966, DST became official throughout most of the United States.
When Daylight Savings Starts and Ends Has Constantly Changed
In the US, DST originally started in April and ended in October. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST by four weeks. Americans now set their clocks forward on the second Sunday in March and back on the first Sunday in November.
DST was once even longer: In response to the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s, Congress increased the length of DST to 10 months in 1974 and 8 months in 1975. The experiment was abandoned in 1976.
But Not Every Place Observes Daylight Savings Time
Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST. Neither do most U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Surprise! Farmers Don’t Like It…
Although many people think DST was created to benefit farmers, farmers argued against its adoption in the 1960s and continue to call for its abolition today. Dairy farmers are opposed because cows are extremely sensitive to milking times. Additionally, grain is best harvested after morning dew has evaporated, which makes DST a hindrance to farmworkers.
But Many Businesses Love It
Retailers and companies in the sports, leisure, and tourism industries were early proponents of DST and continue to support it today. Having more daylight in the evening encourages people to go shopping and spend more time and money on outdoor activities. For instance, the National Golf Foundation once estimated that extending DST increased golf industry revenues from $200 million to $300 million. Companies that make outdoor grills and charcoal determined that they gained $200 million in sales with the extension of DST.
People sleep an average of 40 minutes less and there are 5.7% more injuries on the Monday after DST takes effect. Sleep cycles can take weeks to adapt to DST. Children have a particularly hard time adjusting to different sleep patterns.
It May Not Conserve Energy
Opinions are split on whether DST saves energy. DST was designed to help consumers take advantage of natural light and rely less on artificial light. Some studies have shown that DST reduces residential lighting costs, which
represent about 3.5 percent of total electric usage. However, other studies found that DST increases air conditioner use, which represents about 16.5 percent of electric usage.
Currently, 37 states have between one and nine DST-related bills on the legislative docket for 2019. Proposals range from studying the issue in more depth to abolishing Daylight Savings Time entirely. There is also a grassroots movement to abolish DST once and for all.
Let us know your feelings about DST. Do you enjoy its benefits or do you believe “it’s about time” to get rid of it?