Ugh. You’re up an hour early, your body hates you for it, and even a gallon of coffee can’t get your day on track. Daylight saving sucks. But you know the worst part? It doesn’t have to be like this.
>> This article was first published in March 2013.
Daylight saving isn’t as old as you think it is. First suggested by Benjamin Franklin, in 1784, it was at the time shot down by many very sensible people as being pointless. Then, in the First World War, it was introduced—first by the Germans—to save coal during war time.
Somehow in that age of austerity, the concept soon caught on and everyone started doing it. Sadly, nobody’s really thought to change back. Except Arizona, and it hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet as a result.
But oddly, some people still support the use of daylight saving: they say it saves energy, promotes a healthy lifestyle, and reduces traffic accidents. So let’s bust the myths right now and make it clear that daylight saving needs to go.
The Germans introduced daylight saving to lower fuel costs. The idea is that, while changing the clocks reduces the use of artificial lighting in the evening but increases use in the morning, the evening reduction outweighs the morning increase.
Great—but that was a century ago. Recent studies point out that, at best, DST might reduce the US electricity usage by 1% during March and April. Other estimates, by the National Bureau of Standards, suggest it has zero effect.
Many folks point to the fact that DST reduces the incidence of road traffic accidents as a good reason to keep using the system. In fact, the data surrounding road safety disagree widely. Some studies show that it makes no difference, others suggest a 0.7 per cent reduction in traffic fatalities during DST. When the data’s that limited, it’s not enough to base a decision on.
It’s true that DST does provide extra daylight in the evening, and that it may bring with it increased physical activity and reduced incidence of depression. But there is plenty of evidence that changing the clocks by an hour can have a detrimental effect on our health.
Clock shifts disrupt our circadian rhythms. Studies have show that, around the times of the spring clock changes, there are spikes in suicide rates and an increase in the number of recorded heart attacks. In fact, when Kazakhstan ditched DST in 2005, it cited health reasons. Sure, it might make you go for an extra jog or two every year, but it might also help contribute to a heart attack. I know which I’d prefer.
So, none of the arguments for maintaining DST weigh up. I have one, very large, argument to support scrapping it, though: it loses the US billions of dollars every year. It damages retail, affects the stock market in a negative way, and even disrupts agriculture.
A century ago, we didn’t have data to tell us whether DST made a real measurable impact; it was acceptable to run with it because, for all we knew, it was useful. Now, we know better. Day light savings sucks—and we need to get rid of it.