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Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

Old clock on autumn leaves on wooden table on natural background
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The time change is the bane of many a person’s existence. When it ends, you gain that hour of sleep back, but does it really make up for it? As archaic as it may be, here’s why it has stuck around.

What Is Daylight Saving Time?

While most folks call it “Daylight Savings Time,” it’s actually Daylight Saving Time. But that doesn’t matter all that much in the scheme of things. Daylight Savings begins each year in March, on the second Sunday, with the turning ahead of the clocks by one hour. Then it ends on the first Sunday in November when you turn them back by one hour.

The reason for the change dates back many years, but it centers on getting more daylight time in the summer when people are working in the fields and spending time outdoors hunting and trapping meals. It’s not only a farming thing, although it is beneficial in that respect. When winter comes, there’s less of a need to make the day “last longer,” and the days start getting shorter anyway after the autumn equinox.

The History of Daylight Saving Time

The history of Daylight Saving Time begins with Ben Franklin. While it wasn’t his exact plan, he suggested people change their sleep schedule to save money. His idea would turn into something more as centuries went on.

The concept being that by moving the clocks forward in the spring, people would be able to conserve more energy by using less lighting. There would be more time to work in the daylight, rather than using electricity.

The time change was brought up again in 1895 by a New Zealand entomologist named George Hudson. Hudson wanted more time to enjoy the sunshine after he got out of work during the summer months. But still, it would be a few more years before the United States would harness the idea.

The United States isn’t the only place where Daylight Saving Time, although known by other names around the world, took hold. William Willet proposed the same idea to England’s Parliament seven years after the United States adopted the time change. His idea was rejected initially, however. A couple of years later, in 1916, Germany started pondering ways to save energy, implementing this same concept. Then, many other countries did the same.

It was on March 9, 1918, that the U.S. Congress implemented its first Daylight Saving law. However, it wasn’t all they did. They also came up with the Standard Time Act, which defined time zones in the United States.

How Did Daylight Saving Help Cut Down on Energy Costs?

Coal power plant with chimney and cooling towers

In the early 1900s, most energy for powering light and heat came from coal power. There may have been more significant savings then, but studies now have shown that DST saves a small amount of money. This savings depends on where you live. For countries located close to the equator, DST doesn’t bring much savings as there’s already plenty of daylight.

So, Why Do We Still Practice Daylight Saving Time?

If it’s not saving money, what’s the point? A quick search on the internet will lead you to many pros and cons of daylight saving time.

The time change still enables you more time to enjoy the sunlight in the summer, which will give you extra time to soak up vitamin D. Some parts of the world will still get less sunlight even with the time change.

What the time change isn’t about is farming. One of the most popular reasonings for why DST is still happening is that it gives farmers more hours in the day to work in the fields. The same can be done with an adjustment to someone’s alarm clock. Plus, the plants in the fields and the farm animals don’t know what time it is. They live by when the sun rises and sets.

Not all states in the United States practice the dual time change anymore, and others may follow suit. One of those states is Florida, which implemented a year-round Daylight Saving Time. They sprung forward and stayed there. Hawaii and Arizona don’t change the clocks at all, giving people more time in the cool evenings to deal with the extreme heat of daytime. Also, there are parts of Arizona where the time change is observed, however— on some of their Native American Reservations.

That doesn’t answer why the rest of the United States is still observing DST, and honestly, there isn’t a good answer. Those against it bring up the negative aspects, including the health risks, possibly linked to the time change.

  • Losing or gaining an hour of sleep may increase the risk of a heart attack in some people.
  • The hour loss of sleep may lead to more vehicular accidents.

That’s just until your body adjusts, once again, to the time change. It’s not a permanent affliction, though both are serious health risks.

Yet, others will argue that the eight months of DST is of great benefit, even if it only offers more sunlight daily for those working during that period. But, what about those people working third shift and sleeping during the daytime? Because life is so much different now than it was when the concept of Daylight Savings was originated, it seems like there are more reasons to either nix it altogether or make it a permanent thing like in Florida.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »