Many of you may have heard that the US Senate voted unanimously last week that those of us living in the US should stop changing our clocks twice a year and permanently stay on Daylight Savings Time, leading to later sunrises in the mornings and later sunsets in the evenings, or darker mornings and brighter evenings. They’ve named this the Sunshine Protection Act, which is somewhat amusing- as if we’re somehow at risk of losing sunshine if we don’t move forward with this new policy. I completely agree that the arbitrary changing of our clocks twice a year- “spring forward” and “fall back”- is completely bizarre. It strikes me every time we change our clocks that it’s incredible we’re all able to get on board with this twice a year. But did the US Senate take the right path in opting for year-round Daylight Savings rather than year-round Standard Time? I’d say no.
What does Daylight Savings do to our sleep?
Most sleep experts agree that Daylight Savings generally leads to less sleep, as we stay active later in the day, going to bed later. Our bodies are better off when we’re in sync with light and dark cycles. When it’s dark in the morning, it’s harder to wake up. When it’s bright in the evening, it delays the onset of our body’s hormone melatonin, signaling to our bodies it’s time for sleep. Dark mornings and bright evenings throw off our body’s circadian rhythm. So what are we left with when we are on Daylight Savings Time? For most of us, fewer hours of sleep.
Has everyone always been on board with Daylight Savings?
No. Most of Arizona* and Hawaii have been on year-round Standard Time for years, with brighter mornings and darker evenings. Arizona decided in 1968 that Daylight Savings Time didn’t work for its residents, and most of Arizona has stuck with Standard Time year-round since then. In peak summertime, if Arizona did follow Daylight Savings time, the sun (and its stifling heat) wouldn’t set until 9 pm, making it difficult to enjoy any evening activities in cooler temps until after 9 pm. Hawaii also opted to stick with Standard Time year-round. In its case, this was due to its geography leading to fewer variations between winter and summer daylight hours, making the clock change a moot point.
*Most of Arizona follows Standard Time year-round. The Navajo nation does not.
Why did we ever even start Daylight Savings?
Many debate the origins. While it was initially proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, we didn’t end up instituting Daylight Savings until many years later in World War I and World War II– to, in theory, maximize summer daylight hours and save energy for war production. Some say, in fact, that Daylight Savings has actually resulted in higher residential energy bills. Daylight Savings became standard practice for most of the US in 1966 when Congress passed The Uniform Time Act.
Where do we go from here?
Fingers crossed that the House doesn’t approve the Sunshine Protection Act. For the past week, since we switched to Daylight Savings, I’m back to waking in the dark and watching movies in evening daylight in Bozeman, MT, both of which feel unnatural. I prefer to have my sunshine in the morning, thanks. What do you think?