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The History and Reasoning Behind Daylight Saving Time

setting clock forward.jpgDaylight Saving Time (DST) is always a welcome early sign of spring, as it starts in early to mid-March and lasts through early November.

The dates are a bit different each year, but the clocks always change at 12 a.m. on a Sunday, making it easier to get with the program before going to work again on Monday.

Whether you love your extra hour of sleep in the fall or hate the whole concept, DST affects almost all of the United States and Canada, along with most of Europe. But how did it come about?

What Is Daylight Saving Time?

This year, DST begins on Sunday, March 11th, and every state except Arizona will move the clock ahead one hour. This will make it seems as if the sun is setting later. Of course, that also means the sun will rise later, too, but the idea is that the majority of workers are still in bed and would rather have their sunlight after work instead of before. When DST ends in autumn, the clocks are moved back one hour, to exactly to where they used to be.

The History of Daylight Saving Time

later sunset and daylight saving timeAlthough ancient cultures regularly changed their schedules to follow the sun, and Ben Franklin joking suggested the idea in the 1700s, Germany was officially the first country to adopt the practice. This happened during World War I as a way to conserve fuel, and the idea quickly swept across Europe. Likewise, it was signed into U.S. law by Woodrow Wilson in 1918 as part of the war effort.

After that, cities and states had a wide range of timekeeping practices, which made it hard to keep track of time across the country. Year-round DST was declared during World War II; after that it took until the 1960s to pass a law regulating time across the country (though states could opt out).

The Health Effects of Daylight Saving Time

Though DST may save businesses money by delaying the need to turn on the lights in the summertime, many scientists and medical professionals argue that the practice leads to a significant increase in traffic accidents, especially when people lose an hour of sleep in the spring.

motorcycle on street at dusk.jpgThe fall time change isn’t much better, however, and these accidents may be attributed to the body’s slow response to the time shift. In fact, some studies show that your circadian rhythms never really adjust to Daylight Saving Time at all, so it can play havoc with your sleep cycle.

Additional research shows that when Daylight Saving Time ends, there’s a correlated spike in depression as people face the long, dark nights of winter and are often unable to enjoy any sunlight at all. This affects both the mind and body, as Vitamin D levels also drop due to a lack of sunlight.

The Future of Daylight Saving Time

Given the drawbacks, an increasing number of Americans (43 percent) think that DST is no longer necessary. In Massachusetts, state lawmakers are exploring eliminating Daylight Saving Time and joining the Atlantic Time Zone instead of the Eastern Time Zone, which would have the effect of staying on DST permanently. While this would help Bay Staters avoid a 4 p.m. winter sunset and the depression that comes with it, it could confuse travelers to New England.

Whether you think DST is worth the struggle or not, make sure you remember to change the clocks on March 11!

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