Updated: Oct 18, 2021
On Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2:00 a.m., clocks around the country rewound an hour, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in most of the United States. But as another year of time changing goes by, many question the necessity of this biannual clock switching. After all, the world today is quite different from when DST was first implemented. So, is switching between Standard and Daylight Saving Time a good idea today? And, what about its alternatives?
History of Daylight Saving Time
Daylight Saving Time was initially conceived by George Hudson, an Entomologist from New Zealand, who wanted more time to collect bugs after work. He realized that while the sun rises earlier during the summertime, people’s sleep schedules usually remain about the same as during the winter, so they wake up after sunrise. He reasoned that the wasted sunlight in the morning could be relocated towards the end of the day, which would allow people to have extra time to utilize the sunlight after work for recreational purposes.
Contrary to popular belief, the idea was not instituted to help farmers out. Farmers were one of the main groups opposing the change to DST because it meant they would have less time to prepare for markets in the summer. With the clocks being shifted back, markets would happen sooner after sunrise and farmers needed that time, as farmwork can often only be done in the daylight.
Different Sides of the Argument
Permanent DST would mean leaving clocks as they are in the summer for the entire year (later sunrises and later sunsets). The main advantages of this system are that people would spend more time outside, garnering numerous health and economical benefits, according to research from Harvard University.
Additionally, Daylight Saving Time bolsters the restaurant, golf, entertainment, and tourism industries, because people are more likely to visit these businesses during the day, and the day ends later during DST. It’s estimated that the golf industry would gain $400 million in revenue if DST was extended by just one month.
DST also reduces crime. A 2015 study indicated that 7% fewer crimes happen during DST because criminals are generally more reluctant to commit crimes during the day. These benefits would be even more significant if DST were year-round.
Another benefit of permanent DST is that it eliminates the two time changes during the year. These time changes have proven to wreak havoc on people’s sleep schedules and negatively affect productivity. They also force people to change their clocks twice a year, which can be annoying .
At the same time, permanent DST is not without its drawbacks. It would push people to wake up before the sun rises during winter, which according to sleep experts, is catastrophic for our circadian rhythms and can lead to major drowsiness — potentially counteracting any health and economical benefits that were gained. The drowsiness is largely because when DST is in effect, people go to sleep later, but wake up at the same time, and therefore sleep less a result.
Permanent DST (and DST in general) also doesn’t help people living in warm states because they may not even want to go out during the day due to the heat. This is the one of the main reasons why states like Hawaii and Arizona do not follow DST.
However, new inventions like artificial lighting, more in-home entertainment options, and air conditioning have made sunlight less relevant compared to when DST originated, since people can now more easily enjoy and entertain themselves without the aid of sunlight.
Permanent Standard time
Having permanent standard time would allow the elimination of pesky time switches and ensure a consistent sleep schedule throughout the year, without any of the drawbacks of having winter DST.
However, it would lead to “wasted” daylight in summer mornings, when the sun would come up at unreasonably early hours. Permanent standard time would also mean a drop in tourism and golf revenues, an increase in crime rates, and possibly overall discontent. For example, when Brazil opted to switch to permanent standard time in 2019, and the sun began to rise at 4:30 a.m. during the summer, people were visibly upset.
No Change to Current System
As aforementioned, our current time-switching system allows people to maximize daylight use in both the summertime and wintertime. Unfortunately, the time-switching itself is detrimental to our health, even though the effects are generally only noticeable for a few weeks after the time-switching occurs.
Switching between standard and daylight saving time also doesn’t make sense in countries around the equator, where seasons aren’t well defined.This is because in these countries, the length of the day stays almost the same year-round, so clock switching doesn’t make sense.
Gradual DST switching
Gradual DST switching involves transitioning between standard and daylight saving time over several days rather than all at once. Instead of switching our clocks by an hour on Nov. 1, for example, we’d change it by 10 minutes each day from Nov. 1 to Nov. 6. While this would likely ease many of the sleep issues with time-switching, it would be a logistical nightmare, as clocks would have to be switched many times. However, as the world becomes increasingly connected and automatized, this may become a possibility.
Using Summer Mornings
Another thing that could be done is encouraging people to wake up earlier (before work or school) during the summer and use that time to go outside. This way, we could keep standard time year-round without sacrificing people’s time, physical health, and time outside. This would likely not do anything to help businesses like golf courses, though.
Today, many places, like Brazil and the E.U are opting out of the current system of DST, this has been to mixed reactions, and it’s unclear exactly how successful these changes have been.
Overall, the DST debate has no clear, unambiguous, universal solution, as all options come with various benefits and drawbacks. Ideal solutions vary from place to place, and their success differs widely from person to person.
Through Teen Lenses: Do you think our current system of daylight saving time is good? If not, how should it be changed?
“I think it’s good because we get more sleep[in the long run]. I think it shouldn’t be changed” Vivian Gao, 15, 10th Grade, Centreville, VA
“I think it’s kind of unnecessary now because not a lot of people are farming anymore and it’s just kind of hard to keep track of” J. May, 15, 10th grade, Centreville, VA
“I think DSTt is fine as it is, it provides a quick transition of time in summer nights and less hours in the day during the hours of the sun.” Anonymous, 15, 10th grade, Ashburn, Virginia