There's one day in autumn, just a few weeks after the fall equinox, when most Americans get to time travel. Now, before you get too excited, this isn't a case where we've all miraculously gained a temporary superpower. We're talking about the 25-hour day when Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends and we transition back to Standard Time. On the first Sunday of November, at 1:59 a.m., digital clocks tick back to 1 rather than forward to 2 a.m., and you "gain" a glorious hour of sleep in the morning. However, on Monday you'll find that post-work sunlight has dwindled down to a few precious hours (that is, if you're working a nine-to-five job).
The sun already gradually sets earlier each day leading up to the winter solstice, but the change means light starts to fade before 5 p.m. in some places. Before you know it, you'll feel like a desperate plant in the winter, moving around the house to absorb as much natural light as possible! So when is Daylight Saving Time and why do we set the clocks twice a year? Where does such a tradition come from? Here's what to know about DST, and when to set a reminder in your calendar if you have to change your clock manually!
What is Daylight Saving Time?
The idea behind Daylight Saving Time is to literally "save time" by making better use of daylight hours as the earth orbits around the sun. The practice of moving the clock forward one hour from Standard Time during the spring gives us more daylight during summer evenings; changing them back again in the fall grants us more light during winter mornings.
An extra hour in the morning is a boon for someone like Ree Drummond, who has to be up at the crack of dawn to help with mornings on the ranch. But if you're going to work at 9 a.m. and getting out at 5 p.m.? Well, you will hardly catch the sun on both ends of your day.
When does the time change?
Daylight Saving Time in the United States runs from the second Sunday in March ("spring forward" an hour) to the first Sunday in November ("fall back" an hour). The clocks change at 2 a.m. to create the least disruption for early workers. People who don't have a digital clock that changes automatically will often switch their watches on Saturday night before bed.
This year, Daylight Saving Time began on March 13, 2022, and ends on November 6, 2022. The intervening wintry months are known as Pacific, Mountain, Central, or Eastern Standard Time.
Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?
Oh boy, is there a lot here! A few stories prevail about how the United States adopted the time change. Benjamin Franklin wrote an early "proposition" in a 1784 letter to The Journal of Paris, where he suggested the city could save 64,050,000 pounds of candle wax burned if only its citizens would rise with the sun. He also suggested firing cannons in every street as a city-wide alarm clock, so the letter is taken mainly as satire (thank goodness).
In 1916, Germany was the first country to enact Daylight Saving Time to save money on energy costs during WWI; the United States and much of Europe followed suit. Then, comes a slightly chaotic time for Daylight Saving Time in America—the federal law was repealed after the war, reinstated during WWII, and made optional after that war ended. This "choose-your-own-adventure" DST made traveling between states an absolute nightmare. (Who could have seen that coming? 😂)
Finally, in 1966, the federal government passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized DST for six months, from April to October. It was extended twice more to seven months in 1986, and our current eight months in 2005.
Is Daylight Saving Time becoming permanent?
In recent news, the Sunshine Protection Act was proposed as a United States federal law that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent, meaning no more changing the clocks twice a year!
On March 15, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed the bill unanimously. Currently, it still needs to be discussed by U.S. House of Representatives before it can be signed into law by the President. If the bill were to pass in the next year, permanent Daylight Saving Time would take effect on November 5, 2023.
Eliminating what feels like an arbitrary time switch sounds like a simple plan, one most people could get behind if they dislike Standard Time. However, some scientists and experts warn that there are serious health risks. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine's (AASM) official position cites an "abundance of evidence" showing that the abrupt switch from Standard Time to DST leads to an "increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and motor vehicle crashes." Even without the sudden change, DST is less aligned with our natural circadian biology. The AASM concludes that the seasonal time change should be eliminated but in favor of year-round Standard Time.
Love it or hate it, most of us have learned to live with switching our clocks twice a year. Arizona and Hawaii don't observe daylight saving time, but hey, they get lots of sunlight anyway! 😉
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