Daylight Saving Time. Time to Go?
It is my intention to try and convince you that Daylight Saving Time should be abolished. I will use facts and links to study papers carried out on the detrimental effects of the changes to our clocks twice per year. In particular, the spring change where we lose an hour of sleep.
You may be surprised at some of the results of research into what at first may seem like a small change to our sleep pattern.
Chronology - From Idea to Practice
Let’s first take a look at the chronology of how this idea formed and came into practice.
- 1784 - Daylight Saving Time has been around as a concept since 1784 when Benjamin Franklin half-jokingly suggested it in a satirical essay, as a way for the people of Paris to save on candles by getting out of bed an hour earlier to make use of extra daylight.
- 1895 - It wasn’t until over a century later that a more serious proposition was put forward by George Hudson, a British-born New Zealander. He was a keen entomologist who much valued daylight after finishing his day job at the Wellington Post Office in order to pursue his hobby, in which he amassed ‘the finest and most perfect collection of New Zealand insects ever formed by one person’.
He proposed the idea in a paper in 1895, in which he said, “The effect of this alteration would be to advance all the day’s operations in summer two hours compared with the present system. In this way, the early-morning daylight would be utilised, and a long period of daylight leisure would be made available in the evening for cricket, gardening, cycling, or any other outdoor pursuit desired.”
Whilst there were obvious benefits to this idea, it was met with opposition by people saying the system we have has worked for all this time, why change it now? Indeed, it wasn’t until 1927 that New Zealand adopted DST, long after other countries had done so.
- 1908, in Great Britain a bill was proposed to adopt the scheme, as put forward by William Willett, but the bill was not passed by the government.
- 1916 - There was a limited use of DST in Thunder Bay, Canada in 1908, but the first countries to actually introduce it as a nation, were Austria, Germany and Hungary in April 1916 as a wartime measure. They were swiftly followed by other European countries embroiled in the conflict. The USA waited until 1918 before they adopted it, although it was soon repealed in 1919 by Woodrow Wilson after a public backlash. France, Canada, the UK and Ireland kept DST from this point on.
- 1942 - As Europe once again found itself in the tumult of war, DST was again utilised by America and was called ‘War Time’. This time they stuck with it following the end of the conflict and is still commonly used in the USA with the notable exceptions of Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and some of its other overseas territories.
- 1966 - It wasn’t until 1966 that DST was standardised by Congress. Prior to this Act, different states had been using different dates on which to change the time, which had been creating chaos.
- 1975 – During the energy crisis of the 1970’s, a study was undertaken in the US, that indicated DST was beneficial to lowering the use of energy because people tended to be asleep more during the hours of darkness and therefore using less electricity.
- 2017 – One hundred and twenty-two years after George Hudson’s idea was proposed, around 70 countries worldwide now use Daylight Saving Time with Japan and China being the notable exceptions from industrialised nations. Countries near the equator don’t use the idea because the hours of daylight have no significant change year round.
Saving Energy and Helping Farmers are Myths
So, despite the common belief, Daylight Saving Time was not introduced to help farmers, indeed traditionally, the agricultural community has been opposed to DST.
Rather, it was more of a general idea by George Hudson trying to maximise daylight in order to catch more bugs in his evenings. In later years it was imposed as an effort to use less energy in times of war and the energy crisis of the 1970’s. These findings may have been given a political spin though, as subsequent studies have not shown this to be effective in any conclusive terms, with most people finding the changes of their schedules very disruptive and unnecessary.
Problems DST Causes
Twice a year we go through the problems that arise from DST:
- People turning up an hour late for work because they didn’t know the clocks had changed, or vice-versa and show up an hour early.
- Feeling tired all day at work.
- Going around the house changing clocks is time-consuming, especially for old people, as it affects cooking stoves, microwaves ovens, central heating systems and other electronic devices too.
Then, of course, there are the more important physical and mental health aspects that arise from this twice-yearly change too:
- Disrupted sleep pattern.
- For someone who already has sleep pattern problems, the changes can only exacerbate the issue.
- Even those who don’t normally have trouble sleeping may find themselves hugely affected by going to bed an hour early. Struggling to get to sleep before their normal bedtime.
- Getting an hour less sleep is particularly perturbing for those who have stressful jobs or long hours of work such as doctors and nurses.
- The disruption to sleep on the morning after has been proven to be the cause of a substantial increase in the number of accidents on the roads the morning after the spring change.
- It can affect stress levels.
- In addition to the above, it has also been shown to cause an increase in the number of stress-related heart attacks.
- It can affect the performance of our memory and concentration when we are tired, leading to more accidents at work.
One Hour Can Have a Big Impact... Literally.
Our natural 24-hour cycle is known as the Circadian Pattern, and any slight change to this can have profound effects on us. It is nice to get the extra hour in bed in the autumn and in general terms, it is the spring change that gives our bodies the most trouble.
We may find it difficult to get to sleep an hour earlier than our normal bedtime, and yet if we don’t do that, we ‘lose’ an hour of the sleep that our bodies need in order to refresh our brain and other vital organs. We may not yet fully understand all the functionality of sleep, but we do know it can have severe detrimental effects on us if we don't get enough of it.
All the facts presented point to Daylight Saving Time not delivering on its goal of saving energy and indeed the evidence points to it causing many detrimental effects on the populace of countries where it is used.
I, therefore, propose that it is time to end this practice.
Do you agree?
Please take the time to take part in the poll below. Thank you!
Poll on DST
Would you like to see Daylight Saving Time abolished?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Ian McKay