Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Curse of Daylight Savings Time Changes

It’s been almost a week since the big time change, and I think that I’m finally adjusting the the disruption in my circadian rhythm. I’ve heard all kinds of things about the benefits of Daylight Savings Time, but frankly, in my opinion, most of those arguments hold the same scientific weight as that old parental adage, “You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.” That argument just never ends well.

Daylight Savings Time has a long history. As far back as ancient Rome, people were adjusting the day to gain the most out of their daylight hours, with several cultures simply breaking the day into twelve daylight “hours” and twelve nighttime “hours.” In the winter months, that often meant that the hours were significantly less than 60 minutes. Roman water clocks were even fitted with different weights to measure hours of the day depending on the time of the year to measure these shorter hours.

Many of you who watched the movie “National Treasure” probably think that Benjamin Franklin invented the concept of Daylight Savings Time. Unfortunately, that is not exactly true. In 1794, while an envoy to France, Franklin published a paper suggesting that Parisians get up earlier to utilize the morning daylight hours. The satirical piece included a means to achieve this goal: firing a cannon at sunrise, taxing window shutters, and rationing candles.

The first modern attempts at implementing a Daylight Savings Time occurred in 1895 in New Zealand by George Hudson. He requested a two-hour time shift in order to give him extra time to collect insects after he finished his normal work day. Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada was the first city to adopt Daylight Savings Time in July 1908. The states of the German Empire and its Austria-Hungary allies adopted DST in 1916 as a part of the war effort to save coal during World War I.

The United States formally adopted the practice on March 31, 1918. It was extremely unpopular and was abolished at the end of World War I. Until President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a form of DST during World War II, known as “War Time,” only certain, local areas observed the time change. After the war, DST had gained some popularity and many states in the eastern part of the country continued to use it even though there was no Federal standard requiring them to do so.

Because of the haphazard ways in which different states were observing time, and in some cases cities in the same state, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed. Beginning in 1967, time would have to be standardized in each time zone. The time change would come on the last Sunday in April and continue until the last Sunday in October. If a state wished to be exempt, the entire state had to not observe. At the time of implementation, Arizona and Michigan declared themselves exempt. Arizona still does not follow DST, with Hawaii exempting themselves, also.

For 1974 and 1975, instituting a year-round implementation of Daylight Savings Time was tested. The OPEC oil embargo necessitated finding ways to conserve fuel. A report by the DOT found “no significant energy savings or differences in traffic fatalities.” The experiment ended in 1975 with the time changes being re-instituted as they had been before. In 1986, the government changed the dates for Daylight Savings Time to the first Sunday in April, while keeping the last Sunday in October as the end date. DST was extended once again in 2007 with a new starting date of the second Sunday in March, and an ending date of the first Sunday in November. The Department of Energy concluded that there was an energy savings of .03% in the first year of newly extended Daylight Savings Time.

So, who benefits from Daylight Savings Time? Obviously, it is not the normal human. And it’s not farmers or their animals despite the rumor that this was all done for the farmers. The abrupt change causes serious mood swings in this household. I would guess, too, that production at work the first week or so would be affected. According to a study done by a sleep journal, it sometimes takes three weeks to get back into a normal pattern. And heart attacks increase in the days and weeks after the time change.

It is estimated that national productivity suffers a loss of $434 million because of the time change, none of which is made up in the falls when we “gain” an hour. And the poor farmers. The farmers are the only group to actively lobby against Daylight Savings Time in the United States.

The biggest benefactors to Daylight Savings Time appear to be the members of the retail industry and outdoor sports venues. Golfers get extra time to hit the greens. After the extension of DST in 2007, the golf industry saw a $200 million increase in greens fees. Retailers say the extra daylight time after work gives the public “more” time to stop in and shop and spend money.

With so many strikes against it, why do we continue to observe Daylight Savings Time? It’ easy to say money talks. It definitely does in this case. We all want more daytime hours, but there has to be a better answer. Perhaps we would split the difference to a half hours and keep that our Standard Time. It would eliminate the need for abrupt time changes, and give us the benefit of daylight hours. Thirty minutes is not that big of a change to cause too much grief with not enough “time.”

I’m all for eliminating Daylight Savings Time as long as we adjust our clocks to be the most beneficial over the course of the calendar. The biggest issue with taking away those pesky time changes? How will we know when to change the batteries in our smoke detectors?

This week has been less than productive or friendly at the Bacon Compound. We’re ready for bed earlier, and our sleep has been off even with the extra exhaustion. Wendy has complained about not sleeping well all week. My productivity in front of the computer has definitely suffered, as well as my reading pace. That my reading has been affected could be considered an emergency in this house. I would estimate that my reading has dropped off by about 25% since the change. Obviously, I will get back into a reading and writing groove, but the interruption is quite annoying.

Craig Bacon likes daylight hours for reading. And nighttime hours for reading. Natural light is the best, though.