Is daylight savings worth the candle? The debate on March/November time changes
Set your clock ahead an hour before bedtime tonight.
The bi-annual disruption of Americans’ circadian rhythms — a medical term referring to the body’s inner clock — takes place tomorrow at 2 a.m. when daylight savings time kicks in, and clocks “spring forward.”
Driving that inner time piece haywire is no joke. Just ask parents. According to a poll taken by BabyCenter, 55% of parents want daylight savings time to remain all year long, and only 31% want to keep the status quo. (Presumably the other 14% are just too tired to care.)
Other results from the poll reveal that more than half of children under 5 take up to three days to adjust to springing forward and falling back, and mothers are losing up to two hours of sleep because of the changes, plus the loss of an hour in March.
But it’s not just the little ones and those who care for them who are negatively affected. In a 2022 Monmouth University poll, it was shown that risks for heart attacks, strokes and traffic accidents increase significantly in the days following a time change.
Last November, the American Medical Association called for doing away with the November-March time changes. “Committing to standard time has health benefits and allows us to end the bi-annual tug of war between our biological and alarm clocks,” said Alexander Ding, an AMA trustee.
BACK IN TIME
The first occurrence of circadian rhythm disorder came about in the 17th century, when railroads came on the scene. Trains had to run on schedules, so people and those shipping goods knew reliable times to get on board, and people needed personal time pieces.
Before that, most folks lived by getting up with the sun, eating when they were hungry and hitting the sack not long after the sun went down.
According to writer Gary Stephenson, the idea of daylight savings time, which had been around for a century or more, was first put into actual practice in World War I. The Germans decided to set their clocks ahead an hour to save electricity and fuel to aid in the war effort.
The U.S. picked up on their enemy’s idea. “In the United States, daylight saving time was first used in 1918 when a bill introduced the idea of a seasonal time shift. It lasted seven months before the bill was repealed,” according to Mr. Stephenson. “During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt re-established the idea of daylight saving time. It was called ‘War Time’ … which began in February 1942 and lasted until the end of September 1945.”
In 1966 Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act, setting the last Sunday in April to “spring forward” and the last Sunday in October to “fall back.”
The oil embargo and subsequent crisis of 1973 had elected representatives tinkering with time again, Mr. Stephenson reports, with Congress ordering “a year-round period of daylight saving time to save energy. The period would run from January 1974 to April 1975. But the plan did little to save energy and in October 1974, the U.S. switched back …”
CHANGES AND CHANGES
Are we done yet? Not quite. In 2007, the current system was put in place, moving the clock ahead an hour on the second Sunday in March and back an hour on the first Sunday in November. But Congress has continued to debate the issue.
U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called “The Sun King” by the press and some of his colleagues, is sponsoring a bill with some bipartisan support to have permanent daylight savings time.
“Americans want more sunshine in the chilly, winter months, and Congress can deliver that to them,” the senator told the Washington Post. However, as he told the Post, the bill to eliminate the falling back and springing forward, co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), is still finding its way in the Congressional darkness. But ever the sunny optimist, Sen. Markey cites precedent, noting that Congress has changed the rules before and can do so again.
Last year the Senate passed “The Sunshine Protection Act” by a surprisingly unanimous vote, to stop tinkering with clocks. It was doomed, however, in the House of Representatives. Some members balked at passing a law that, given the history of back-and-forth legislation on daylight savings time, would be reversed by a new Congress.
But Sen. Markey is not taking a nap on the issue. “My opinion is, honestly, the sun doesn’t have any enemies,” he said, meaning no one wants to limit the hours that the Earth’s great light shines.
Remember: Tonight, before bedtime, set your clock ahead one hour. No arguing.