It happened: Tuesday, the US Senate voted unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent from 2023. Perhaps the unambiguous results were influenced by the fact that most of us just put the clocks forward on Sunday, and the disruption of that- This is always on the minds of legislators.
While in recent years various states have passed laws that would extend DST, this US Senate vote is the biggest move yet. If the legislation is passed to the House and then to the President, Americans will no longer have to change their clocks twice a year. (It is not clear at this time that the House will assume the legislation at all.)
The benefits of extending daylight saving time year-round – or simply keeping standard time year-round – are more widespread than avoiding the hassle of resetting clocks (although these days, many watches do this automatically).
At most, it could also potentially improve our collective health, and perhaps prevent some automobile accidents. This would at least save some moaning and hassle as people lose an hour of sleep when daylight saving time starts in the spring. And who wouldn’t want that?
Daylight saving time has started to save energy. It did not work.
Daylight saving time in the United States began as an energy-saving trick during World War I and became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is that during the summer months we shift the number of daylight hours we get in the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., we’ll probably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving electricity.
It also means you’re less likely to sleep during the morning daylight hours, as those are also shifted an hour later. Hence “saving” the daylight hours for the most productive time of the day.
But that premise never seemed to materialize. The alleged electricity savings by taking advantage of more daylight in the evening are found to be unclear or non-existent.
Moreover, not only is DST ineffective, but the name is confusing.
Daylight saving time — and yes, it’s “saving time” not “saving time” — begins in the spring, just when the increase in daylight hours begins to noticeably increase. long. Moreover, the number of daylight hours that fall on our vast and beautiful country is not affected by the practice. These are determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the position of our planet in its orbit around the sun. And these we are powerless to change.
Extending DST year-round would mean later sunsets year-round
So if the House and the President go all the way, what will change?
Blogger and cartographer Andy Woodruff decided to visualize this with a nice set of cards. The purpose of these maps is to show how abolishing DST, extending it year-round, or maintaining the status quo changes the number of days we have sunrise and sunset times.” reasonable”.
Reasonable, as defined by Woodruff, is the sun rising at 7 a.m. or earlier or setting after 5 p.m. (so one could, in theory, spend time in the sun before or after work).
This is what the map looks like under the status quo of half-yearly clock offsets. Many people have unreasonable sunrise times (the dark spots) for much of the year:
Here’s how things would change if daylight saving time were abolished (that is, if we stuck to the set winter time all year round). It’s better, especially at sunrise:
And here’s what would happen if daylight saving time was still in effect. The sunrise situation would actually be worse for most people. But many more people would appreciate the light after work.
The case of consistency
Individuals may differ on which of the above cards they prefer. But it matters less whether we maintain daylight saving time year-round or abolish it altogether; the real benefits come from not going back and forth twice a year.
Rather, it’s this: sleep scientists continually advocate that, for optimal health, people should stick to the same sleep schedule every night, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. When we advance the clocks an hour in the spring, many of us will lose that hour of sleep. In the days following the start of daylight saving time, our biological clocks are a bit off. It’s as if the whole country received an hour of jet lag.
An hour of lost sleep sounds like a small change, but we humans are fragile and sensitive animals. Jet lag can disrupt our metabolism; extreme versions of it can contribute to diabetes or obesity. But in the short term, jet lag dulls our mental edge.
And when our biological clocks are off, everything about us gets out of sync. Our bodies run this tight schedule to try to keep up with our actions. Since we usually eat a meal after waking up, we produce the most insulin in the morning. We are ready to metabolize breakfast before we even take a bite. It’s more efficient that way.
Being an hour off schedule means our bodies are unprepared for our actions at any time of the day.
An example: driving.
In 1999, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities wanted to know what happens on the road when millions of drivers have their sleep disrupted.
Analyzing 21 years of data on fatal car crashes from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, they found a very small but significant increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday following the spring clock change: The Fatalities jumped to an average of 83.5 on Monday “spring ahead” from an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday.
And it seems it’s not just car accidents. Evidence has also accumulated of an increased incidence of workplace accidents and heart attacks in the days following our advance.
Many Americans might not appreciate the year-round extension of DST. There was a year in the 1970s when DST lasted 16 months, and not everyone was happy. Polls at the time found that only 30% of Americans approved of the change after its launch. According to the Washington Post, “Parents were suddenly sending their children to school in the cold and darkness for months”, which fueled the negative sentiment.
But for those thinking “I don’t want later sunset times all year round!” or “I don’t want to start my winter day in the dark!” know that it has always been possible for our society to simply … gradually change the start times of school or work according to the season.