The Saratoga Sun -

Fall forward or spring back?

 

November 6, 2019



“Time is an illusion.”

~ Albert Einstein

Daylight Savings Time (DST) officially ended on Sunday with our clocks falling back an hour. This gave those of us sleeping an extra hour of rest and those who were working a night shift an extra hour of work. Whenever this federally mandated phenomenon starts in March or ends in November, it always throws me off. Judging from my social media feeds, it throws a lot of other people off as well. Not only that, it can have a number of negative effects on your health.

So, why is it that we set our clocks back in the fall and forward in the spring? An often repeated rumor that tends to be generally accepted is that the concept of daylight savings began with farmers so that they could have extra time to work their fields. While it would be easy to accept this explanation, it isn’t true. 

That’s right. Farmers aren’t the reason why, unless you live in parts of Arizona or in Hawaii, you have to change your clocks twice a year.

Time To Change

The currently utilized concept of DST observed by the United States was put into place in 2007, only 12 years ago, in which we “spring” our clocks forward on the 2nd Sunday of March and have our clocks “fall” back on the 1st Sunday in November. Before that, the United States observed DST from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.

Of course, there are parts of the United States that don’t observe DST. The entire state of Hawaii opted out of daylight savings. In Arizona, while most of the state chooses not to take part, the Navajo Nation follows DST. Within the Navajo Nation lies the Hopi Reservation, which follows Arizona’s lead on not changing their clocks. Additionally, inside the Hopi Reservation is a smaller portion of the Navajo Nation. 

According to http://www.timeanddate.com, if one were to drive from the Arizona state border through both the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation and onto the other side they could end up changing their clocks a total of seven times.

Beginning Of Time

The concept of DST was, supposedly, first proposed by one of the Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin appeared to propose the idea of DST in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784.

“Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following,” wrote Franklin.

It was another 100 years before the idea of saving daylight was proposed, again. This time, it came from George Vernon Hudson. Hudson was a British-born New Zealand entomologist and had proposed the idea of DST to allow him more daylight hours in which to collect insects after work. The proposal, titled “On seasonal time,” was presented to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895 and suggested a two-hour seasonal shift. This would eventually lead to New Zealand passing the Summer-Time Act of 1927.

War Time

DST became widely used around the time of World War I, beginning with Germany. Eventually, other countries followed suit, including Britain and the United States as they used DST to conserve fuel for the war by limiting the use of artificial light. Following the end of World War I, many of the countries that had adopted the practice abandoned it, with the exception of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and the United States.

The universal implementation of DST returned with World War II, again as a way to reduce the use of artificial light and conserve fuel for the war effort. While DST had been used by the United States, it wasn’t officially adopted until the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which gave the initial dates of DST starting in the last week in April and ending in the last week in October. An amendment in 1986 changed the start of DST to the first week in April.

The Uniform Time Act doesn’t require all states to follow DST and allows individual states to opt out of the practice by passing a state law with two provisions. If the state lies entirely within a time zone, the exemption must be applied statewide. If the state is divided by a time zone boundary, then the exemption either must applied statewide or the entire part of the state on one side of the time zone boundary must follow the exemption.

Time Hurts

While some could argue that the energy conserving benefits of DST are enough to continue following the practice, it appears that DST can have some negative health effects. According to http://www.health.com, preliminary research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in 2016 found that stroke rates in Finland are raised by eight percent both in the spring and the fall.

In the fall, it appears that diagnoses of depression increase following the end of DST. A 2016 study published in Epidemiology showed the increase in the month following the return to standard time while no similar diagnoses were made during the time change in the spring and no decrease was seen, either.

The decrease in daylight hours not only led to the increase in diagnosis for depression, but could also have an increased effect for those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. SAD often begins in the fall and lasts through the winter and includes symptoms such as fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal.

Time To Change?

During the most recent Wyoming State Legislature, Representative Dan Laursen (R - Powell) introduced House Bill 14, this bill would have exempted Wyoming from DST and moved the state into the Central Standard Time Zone with the uniform time in Wyoming being known as mountain daylight saving time.

“The residents and businesses of the state of Wyoming have become more habituated to the eight months of daylight saving time per year than the four months of standard time per year,” read the bill. “The biannual change of time between mountain standard time and mountain daylight time is disruptive to commerce and to the daily schedules of the residents of the state of Wyoming.”

This was the fourth time that Laursen introduced the bill. It passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 35-23-2. When the bill went to the Senate, however, it failed on a split vote of 15-15.

Time After Time

For the time being, no pun intended, Wyoming will continue to follow DST which will mean that for the next four months we better get used to waking up in the dark and driving home in the dark. Perhaps Laursen will re-introduce his DST bill at the next legislature. It may even pass.

On the bright side, I really enjoyed that extra hour of sleep on Sunday.

 

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