Day Light Savings - Why We Should Get Rid Of It

by Nidhi Chanchlani

Ah, the month of March, and the joys of spring. But a horror lurks... it's time for the clocks to change again. That annoying twice-annual procedure of having to play around with all the clocks. Which of my clocks change automatically? Which are manual? How do I adjust the one in my car again? Do I need to reset my alarm? How much sleep am I going to lose? Not to mention the disruption to the body's circadian rhythms and the increased risk of accidents the following morning.


Being a high school student, I genuinely hate Daylight Saving Time, because it takes an hour off of my sleep and if I’m not sleeping, that’s one less hour I have to be productive since I spent the day procrastinating. I know, I shouldn’t, but don’t give me that look, you know you’re guilty of it too. Anyways, when DST rolled around this year, my semi-annual anger began to boil and I realised that I didn’t even know why we had DST in the first place. And it turns out that it was a wartime initiative in an effort to save an hour’s worth of fuel each day to light lamps, heat homes and rely on natural light rather than gas lamps. And the guy who first came up with the idea was a scientist from New Zealand who wanted a longer day to study insects. Yes, you read that right. The guy who first thought it would be a GREAT idea to move clocks an hour further wanted an extra hour to study insects. So now you know who to blame for your lack of sleep- you can thank me later. 


So DST was employed during the war and then repealed, but some regions like New York, decided to keep it and what ensued can only be described as “a chaos of clocks” as Time Magazine so aptly put it. And then, of course, it was standardised in 1918 as the national norm. And here we are, literally more than 100 years later, still following an initiative that is simply no longer relevant. People in favour of keeping DST say it allows drivers to commute more safely in daylight, promotes outdoor activities, and stimulates the economy. But seriously, don’t let that fool you, just cause we have a longer evening doesn’t mean we’ll finally pull ourselves out of the 45-year trade deficit we’re in. If that were true then maybe there would be a point to this whole ordeal. 


Oh and you’ll hear the argument that ‘DST saves energy though, we’re optimising sunlight hours’. Sweetheart, I hate to break this to you but NO IT DOES NOT. Back when coal power was king, DST did indeed save on lighting energy. Nowadays, multiple studies have proven these savings are more or less offset by the air conditioning that people run during an extra hour of daylight in warmer places. In fact, economists calculated that after Indiana moved to statewide daylight saving time in 2006, there was a 1%-4% increase in annual energy use in the state due to air conditioning use in summer evenings and heat used in the cool spring and fall mornings. A Yale economist conducted this study, I don’t know what to tell you. So while we don’t use bulbs, that energy is still expended through air conditioning. And what’s more is that the simple act of changing clocks costs America $1.7 billion in lost opportunity based on average hourly wages, meaning that the ten or so minutes spent moving clocks, watches, and devices forward and backwards could be spent on something more productive. DST also costs us $1467 million dollars in the airline industry due to confused schedules with countries that don’t participate in our irrelevant ritual. So just remind me, what’s the point of this again?


At this point, if you aren’t questioning why we still follow this pointless ritual, let me also tell you that DST is bad for our health and reduces productivity. You know, just as the cherry on top. Throwing 1.5 billion people’s sleep schedules and internal clocks off is pretty detrimental and a study found that the risk of a heart attack increases 10% the Monday and Tuesday following the spring time change. Not to mention the lack of sleep actually causes more accidents in the days following the change as research shows that DST increases the risk that a car accident will be fatal by 5-6.5% and results in over 30 more deaths from car accidents annually. Speaking of lack of sleep, that results in lower productivity, surprise, surprise. So, in the days following the change, everyone is just not in the mood and there is a direct increase in cyber-loafing where employees and students alike spend their time pointlessly browsing the web because they’re simply too tired to do anything else. Fun fact for you, the Monday after the change? Yeah, that’s called sleepy Monday because everyone is so sleep deprived. Fun times, no? 


And just to leave you on a high note, DST is basically standard time at this point. How; you may ask? Well, ever since President George W. Bush signed a bill in 2007 that extended DST by 4 weeks, DST is actually now active for 8 months out of the 12 in a year. That’s literally the majority of the year, and the ‘standard’ time is the minority in the year. So… why not just make DST the standard time? And then we don’t have to fiddle with clocks and mess up my schedule thank you very much. Or, if that’s not good enough for you, even better, here’s a thought - why don’t we just get rid of it altogether? I mean it’s not like it’s something we can’t live without. I would even go so far as to say that DST is, in fact, something we SHOULD live without. Thank you very much for coming to my TED talk.