Is daylight savings time really saving us a headache?

All together now, let's turn our clocks back an hour tonight. Daylight savings time (DST) ends tonight at 2am and we all celebrate because we get another hour of sleep. But should we be celebrating DST in general? Perhaps not.

(Image Credit: Andy Woodruff)

(Image Credit: Andy Woodruff)

Before we delve into the pros and (mostly cons) of DST I wanted to talk a little about the history of the topic on hand.

DST was first used in the US following various "real and imagined" petroleum shortages following various wars in the middle east in the 1970s. In other words, it was not invented for the farmers to have an extra hour of daylight in the morning. I have no idea where that myth came from. Also, the 1970s was very recent. I always imagined that DST has been around forever, or at least since before WWII. Also note that most of the world does NOT use DST.

The basic problem with DST is that it seems like lawmakers do not fully understands the benefits and drawbacks of this idea. This makes sense because DST is used to combat changing seasons, so it's a complicated issue that differs based upon where you are on Earth. So let's break this down further.

Fundamentally, DST begins in March and ends in November, which means we're back to normal time after tonight. In March, we spring the clocks forward one hour and effectively less sunlight in the morning and more sunlight in the evening. Then in November, when we turn our clocks back an hour, we experience more sunlight in the morning and less in the evening.

What are the effects of having more/less sunlight in the morning/evening?

[Keep in mind that these effects were not the main cause of the implementation of DST, the perceived shortage of petroleum was, so DST was implemented to helps save on energy usage. However, it's also been shown that energy usage doesn't change in a statistically significant way with the use of DST.]

It turns out that having or not having an extra hour of sunlight in the morning or in the evening has really interesting statistical effects on things like crime, sleep cycles, car crashes, school children, farmers, or shopping.

It turns out farmers DO NOT BENEFIT from DST like we were all somehow led to believe. In fact, they can't start working earlier just because the clock moves around. The sun is on its own schedule and grain farmers must wait for the dew to dry. Additionally, cows apparently don't wear watches and really don't appreciate being milked at odd times.

It turns out that waking up without sunlight (which is what DST will mess with tomorrow) is really hard for people and can make life tough. 

It turns out that there are less burglaries when it is brighter in the evening.

It turns out if you're tired, there's statistically more likely to get in a car accident the morning/ week after DST in spring when you get slightly less sleep. 

It turns out that people do more shopping and give the economy an extra boost when there's more daylight in the evening after work.

So there are many negatives and positives to having an extra hour of sleep in the morning or evening. But what does DST actually do to change these hours of light?

Let's look at some maps of the theoretical US if we were on permanent DST or just on permanent standard time (no DST):


(Image Credit: Andy Woodruff).

(Image Credit: Andy Woodruff)

(Image Credit: Andy Woodruff)

Here's the great thing: Humans get to choose which plot we prefer. Keep in mind that there are pluses and minuses to each one. I prefer the scenario with permanent DST because I really enjoy running in sunlight after work. But to each their own.

Here's the not great thing: somebody higher up in government gets to choose your map for you.

Russia did this for its citizens and went to permanent DST in 2011. However, since everyone was upset with having no light in the morning, they switched back to no DST and plan to stay there forever. The kickback from the Russian people was enough to change the time zone of the entire country!

So let it be known - your opinion can be heard, so get educated on what's going on with DST!