“You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe “Daylight Saving Time.”
— Dave Barry
My least favorite time, of my least favorite season, has arrived – the beginning of the ever-expanding construct known as Daylight Saving Time. Not only do I dislike it because I hate giving back that hour of sleep – to be honest, I hated that more when I was in my early twenties and had a part-time job that required working on Sunday mornings – but I dislike it as a parent, who hated the battle of getting young children to reset their internal clocks, and having to get older children out the door to their own part-time Sunday morning jobs, and I really dislike it because it serves absolutely no useful purpose. And yet, the US Congress, in an occasional attempt to pretend to do something, will extend it as a part of one energy bill or another (now it runs more than half the year).
The logic behind it, initially as a way of shifting extra daylight into the evening hours – may have had some practical applications when the country was largely agrarian, and may possibly have some benefit if we assume that people will do more outside activities in the evenings. At the time that Benjamin Franklin advocated for it, the assumption was that no one was up early enough on summer mornings to make use of the earlier daylight. Ah – but I am, and based on the highways, so are many, many other people. There have been conflicting studies over the last forty years, but there is some indication that we use less oil, presumably in the colder climates, during DST, and possibly even enough to offset the fact that we need to use more in the mornings to deal with the lack of sunlight. But, as we become an increasingly global society, our work hours, and lifestyles, have changed, and there have been several studies done in the past ten years that indicate that any energy savings are negligible, and that electricity usage may actually increase during DST partially because of an increased need for air conditioning later in the day. And interestingly enough, a 2014 study done based on data from the government funded American Time Use Survey indicates that during DST people sleep less overall, and do use more energy for both heating (mornings) and cooling (evenings), as well as for lighting. My suspicion is that increased evening activity also correlates to increased gasoline consumption as we drive to the places where we can participate in our evening outdoor activities. But that might just be me.
More importantly, there are studies that indicate that DST causes a decrease in worker productivity that last longer than the day of the change. We simply do not recover from the lost hour of sleep that quickly. And out circadian rhythm is tuned to the sun – we want to sleep when it isn’t there, and be awake when it is – anyone who has worked night shifts knows this. Sleeping in the daylight is hard, waking up in the dark might even be harder. If we aren’t getting sufficient rest, we are tired, do not concentrate well, make mistakes, and we can negatively impact our health.
I hope that someday sanity will prevail, and the rest of the US will join Arizona and Hawaii in no longer observing DST.
The image is, of course, Salvador Dali’s painting “The Persistence Of Memory”, painted in 1931. My favorite clock painting.
Originally posted March 8, 2015.