What is Daylight Saving Time and Why Do We Have It?

The cool fall weather and the return of PSLs to the menu can only mean one thing: The end of this year’s daylight saving time is around the corner and we’re about to “fall back.”

While you may enjoy that extra hour of sleep, it can also be jarring to your body to suddenly be on a new schedule. The clocks may be changing by just an hour, but it can still have a big impact on your day — and your health.

To help make the adjustment a little easier, experts previously recommended going to bed a bit earlier in the days leading up to the change to prepare. They also suggested getting at least 15 minutes of morning sunshine when you wake up.

However you feel about the clocks changing, it helps to know a little more about why we do this every year — and why some politicians and sleep experts are calling for the practice to end.

When is daylight saving time?

Daylight saving (not savings) time starts every year on the second Sunday in March when we "spring forward" an hour. This year, that was on March 13, 2022. It will run until the first Sunday in November, which is when clocks fall back an hour as we enter standard time. In 2022, clocks will turn back on Nov. 6.

The time changes at 2 a.m. while most of us are asleep. And your devices these days will likely do the changing for you so you may not even notice.

Why do we have daylight saving time?

As the seasons change, we get fewer hours of daylight in the winter and more in the spring and summer. (The effect is more noticeable the further away you are from the equator, meaning northern states will feel it more than southern states.) Changing the clocks allows us to maximize the amount of sunlight we get while we’re awake.

Contrary to popular belief, daylight saving was not introduced to help farmers get some extra sun, nor was it an invention of Benjamin Franklin. Instead, lawmakers thought that it might lead to less use of electricity. (The actual effects have been minimal at best.)

What are the arguments for one year-round time?

Changing our clocks twice a year is a practical hassle for many. And that shift in schedules can also have negative effects on our sleep patterns and overall health. So, there’s been a growing push to stick to one time year-round — and to do away with switching the clocks.

Although it might seem like gaining or losing a single hour of sleep shouldn’t make much of a difference, it absolutely does for many people. Studies have also shown an increase in heart attacks, car crashes and other ill health effects, particularly when clocks spring forward.

Some sleep health experts argue that permanent standard time would be preferable to permanent daylight saving time. Sleep specialist Dr. Carol Ash told TODAY that we lose about 30 minutes of sleep a night during daylight saving time due to our bodies being misaligned with the sun.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is “in favor of a national, fixed, year-round time,” the organization’s website says. The best evidence we have now suggests that year-round standard time (rather than daylight saving time) “aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.”

We’ve made daylight saving time permanent before: In January 1974 President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act into law, which eliminated clock-changing for 16 months. While the move (designed as a two-year experiment) was initially quite popular, public opinion turned later in the year. Lawmakers ended the experiment early and standard time was reintroduced in October 1974.

But we may one day have another chance to see what life without changing the clocks is like.

The Sunshine Protection Act could make daylight saving time permanent

Following debates for years, the Senate finally voted to end the regular changing of clocks in March.

The Sunshine Protection Act, which was meant to head to the House for its vote, would make daylight saving time permanent starting in November 2023 — and end the annual rituals of falling back and springing forward.

“We got it passed the Senate, and now the clock is ticking to get the job done so we never have to switch our clocks again,” Sen. Patty Murray said on the Senate floor at the time. She urged the House to pass the bill just as quickly as the Senate did. “Let’s get this bill on President Biden’s desk and deliver more sunshine to Americans across the country,” Murray said.

However, the bill appears to have stalled out, NBC News reported this week.

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This article was originally published on TODAY.com