Daylight Savings Time - What Is It?

Last Updated September 6, 2023

The time of the year when we need to adjust our clocks is around the corner. Adjust your clocks the night before the second Sunday of March if you don't want to miss on important meetings. We have been following this system of Daylight Saving Time (DST) since 1918. You must have had questions like what exactly it does, why it is observed, when and how it began, and much more. So here we will take a look at all of these things related to daylight saving time. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • Daylight Saving Time refers to the practice of changing the clocks by one hour in the spring and fall to save energy and extend daylight hours.
  • In the U.S. and Canada, DST begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November. Other countries have their own systems for changing the clocks.
  • The expression "Spring Forward, Fall Back" is used to help people remember which way to set the clocks when Daylight Saving Time begins or ends.
  • DST was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin, but it was not until World War I that Germany became the first country to adopt it for energy conservation.
  • The purpose of DST was initially to save energy, but there is little evidence of its effect on energy savings. Its main benefit now is giving people more daylight in the evenings.

daylight savings time

What exactly is daylight saving time?

Daylight saving time basically refers to the practice of moving the clocks forward by one hour in the spring and again an hour backward during the fall. This is done so that, during the summers, the darkness falls at a later time. This allows people to get an extra hour of daylight to work and hence saves energy that is used to light lamps while working during the later hours.

At first glance, this looks like an excellent practice for saving time and energy; however, this practice has met many critiques. As much as this practice increases productivity, it's hard for the body's biological clock to adjust to 'clock time' rather than sun time. So just like everything else, this ideology also comes with its pros and cons.

clock adjustment daylight saving time

What is the right way to say it: Daylight Savings Time or Daylight Saving Time?

Many of us are guilty of saying 'Daylight Savings Time' instead of 'Daylight Saving Time.' However, the right term is 'Daylight Saving Time' because the term 'saving' functions as an adjective rather than a verb.

2023 Daylight saving time: When does the time change?

Daylight saving time start on the second Sunday of March, while the first Sunday of November marks its end. This pattern is followed in U.S. and Canada only; other countries follow their systems of changing times. To remember which way to set the clocks, the expression "Spring Forward, Fall Back" is used.

The time is changed at 2:00 in the morning. So, on the second Sunday of March, when the clock hits 2 in the morning, the time is changed to 3 o' clock, and similarly, on the first Sunday of November, when the clock strikes 2 in the morning, the time is changed back to 1 o'clock. In 2023, the time sets forward on 12th March and sets back to Standard Time on 5th November.

History of daylight saving time

Benjamin Franklin was the first to introduce the idea of daylight saving time. He wrote an article titled 'An Economical Project' in 1784, suggesting that people could wake up at dawn and get more natural light, saving the cost of candles and lighting. Franklin's suggestion, however, was largely overlooked.

It was brought up again by William Willett in 1907. Willett made a pamphlet called "The Waste of Daylight," in which he highlighted that people don't make use of sunlight in the morning. He went as far as to say that 210 hours of daylight is wasted every year due to defects in our civilization.

William Willett spent time and money trying to convince the members of Parliament and the U.S. Congress to advance clocks by 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April and reverse it on consecutive Sundays in September. However, his proposal met with ridicule and questionings on moral grounds.

World War I marked the beginning of daylight saving time. Germany was the first country to adopt it in May 1916. At that time, it was adopted to save fuel because huge amounts of resources were being used in the war, and there was a need for the conservation of coal used for heating homes and light during the later hours. Other countries gradually adopted daylight saving time after that. The U.S. adopted it in 1918.

After the war, even though President Woodrow Wilson wanted to keep daylight saving time, it was met with objections from farmers. Daylight saving time ended due to these objections. However, it came back into the picture during World War II. It was re-established by president Franklin Roosevelt

This time, all U.S. states were given the freedom to choose whether they wanted to continue using daylight saving time. This caused a lot of chaos. So in 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed by Congress to control this "Wild West" mayhem.

Under this federal rule, the first Sunday in April would mark the start of daylight saving time, and it would end on the last Sunday in October. However, states were not required to observe daylight saving time; they might choose not to.

Since then, there have been multiple amendments regarding the dates of clocks forward and backward.

Is it beneficial to observe daylight saving time?

Daylight saving time began with the idea of saving energy; however, there has been surprisingly little evidence of its effect on energy savings. In fact, in recent years, the energy used in lights has been significantly reduced. Moreover, the energy used in air-conditioning during long summer evenings is probably more than that. There's also another argument that points towards the fact that it takes more electricity to get ready for school and work since it's dark in the morning.

So, the initial purpose of daylight saving time of saving energy doesn't seem too fruitful. Therefore, now the big driver is not energy saving; instead, it is people wanting to take advantage of the light time in the evening.

is it beneficial to observe daylight saving time

DST allows us to have more light during the evening time, which helps in reducing crimes like robbery and theft. Additionally, more daylight during evenings means that people will do more outdoor tasks during these hours, promoting a more active lifestyle. Moreover, people tend to go shopping or eat out if it's still light outside after work. Some people also like to drive around during the evening time. All of this increases sales, helping the economy of the country.

Even though implemented with positive intentions, DST seems to have more downfalls than positives. Farmers were one of the main groups of people in opposition to this scheme.

Farmers follow the natural sun time rather than clock time because they deal with plants/crops and animals who also follow the biological clock or the sun time. Farmers said that changing the clock time won't change the time when dew drops dry from crops, or the time when cows are used to milking and eating, etc.

In order to sell their produce at the market, farmers had to juggle these responsibilities and reach there one hour earlier. Moreover, animals also took time to adjust to the new timings. These are a few reasons why farmers were firmly against daylight saving time.

Another main disadvantage of daylight saving time is that it meddles with the circadian rhythm or the body's biological clock. Generally, your body's biological clock is in sync with the sun's clock.

Circadian rhythm is a 24 hours cycle followed by the body to maintain sleep homeostasis. The human body produces a hormone called melatonin, which is secreted in response to darkness and helps in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. During daylight saving time, there's more darkness during the morning, which may make you tired and sleepy. Moreover, more light during the evening may also disturb your sleeping time.

Not only this, but daylight saving time also ends up reducing people's sleeping time. Sleep is one of the most vital human processes. One can go longer without food than without sleep.

Lack of sleep because of daylight saving time causes a lot of issues like lack of attention, problems in perception and memory consolidation, etc. There's also an increase in traffic accidents during this time of the year, probably because of the lack of sleep. It has also been said to affect people mentally, especially people going through mood disorders, depression, etc.

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Sunshine Protection Act.

The Sunshine Protection Act was introduced in the year 2018 by Marco Rubio. Under this proposed federal law proposes to make daylight saving time permanent in the U.S., meaning it would not change twice a year.

Despite being approved by the Senate, the Sunshine Protection Act has stalled in the House and is still being debated in a committee. Proponents and opponents of daylight saving time are arguing on the same to this day. About 70% of Americans don't want to switch times twice a year. However, the question is, should we go back to standard time or implement permanent daylight saving time?

Permanent daylight saving time: What does it mean?

Permanent daylight saving time refers to a year-round system of following daylight saving time instead of changing clocks twice a year. This practice would mean that we will have darker mornings during winter. However, it's still not passed by federal law.

In response to the 1973 oil crisis, President Richard Nixon briefly instituted permanent DST in the U.S. in 1974. However, the new, permanent DST law was repealed within a year. Initially, 79% of the people favored year-round DST, but after its first winter, that support had fallen to 42%.

What can be done to adapt better to daylight saving time?

It's not sure yet what will happen in the future, whether we will switch to standard time all around the year or to a permanent daylight saving time, or will we keep following the same clock changes twice a year.

It is hard to predict what the future will bring. However, one thing you can do is prepare yourself to adjust to daylight saving time.

Some things can be done during the days leading to the day of the time change, which will help you adjust better. This includes:

  1. Gradually adjust your schedule

Sleep and metabolism are regulated by our body's internal clock. So a time change interferes with our circadian rhythms and sleep. The transition between circadian and sleep rhythms requires some "lag time." Therefore, it’s better to think a week ahead.

So, instead of making an abrupt change of one hour in your schedule, start going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each day. This way, in 4 to 5 days, you will be already going to bed an hour early. This gradual adjustment can be made to your other habits as well. You can start eating your dinner or going to the gym 10-15 minutes earlier and increase it day by day.

Farmers or farm owners can also use this technique to help their animals/cattle adjust to it by gradually changing their feeding and milking time (in the case of cows and buffaloes).

gradually adjust your sleep schedule

  1. Prioritize daylight exposure

Exposure to natural daylight is significant for your body's internal clock, because it is one of the primary driver for the circadian rhythm. Therefore, daylight exposure on the days after the transition to daylight saving time will assist your body's internal clock adjust to the new schedule of light and dark.

  1. Stock on your sleep reserve

Entering daylight saving time when you’re already sleep deprived can have bad consequences for your health. Sleep deprivation along with an extra hour to the daylight time can make it harder for you to stay alert and focus on work.

Therefore, getting quality sleep in the week leading to daylight saving time can prove to be helpful in coping up with the loss of sleep during that time and it significantly reduces the ill-effects of sleep deprivation.

  1. Power nap as a tool to tackle daytime sleepiness

In the initial days while your body adjusts to the new time, it's fairly usual to feel drowsy during the day. In that case, it’s best advised to take a nap to stay efficient with your work.

Power Nap, usually a 20 minute nap, is considered the best to recharge yourself and  stay alert at work. If you are taking a longer nap, consider sleeping for about 90 minutes, which is estimated to be the duration of one sleep cycle. If you wake in between from a deep sleep, you may end up feeling more sleepy and deteriorating your performance instead.

The best time to take a nap is in the early afternoon, when the awareness level drops for most people. It is advised against taking a nap in late noon or evening because it will reduce your sleep drive at night and disrupt your sleep schedule causing a misalignment which will affect your efficiency at work.

  1. Sleep hygiene

Things you do before going to bed and your bedroom environment constitute sleep hygiene. The better the sleep hygiene, the better sleep you get. Some things you can do to maintain healthy sleep hygiene are:

avoid blue light at least 30 minutes before bed

  • Having a cozy bedroom environment is also conducive to sleep. Things like having dull lights in the room, soft and comfortable mattress, etc. helps in creating that environment.

adapting better to daylight saving

  1. Consume a healthy diet

"You are what you eat," you must have heard people say this quite often; well, considering what a big part food occupies in our life, it won't be wrong to say that it affects our lives in many ways. Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet consisting of all the nutrients your body requires can help you get better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

eating a well-balanced, healthy diet  can help you get better sleep

FAQs on daylight saving time

1. What is the purpose of daylight saving time?

Daylight saving time was introduced to save the energy used in lighting during the evening time. The basic idea behind it was that we don't utilize natural light during the early morning and waste fuel in lighting during the evenings. DST would help with conserving that energy.

2. What is the difference between daylight saving time and standard time?

Daylight saving time is the practice of setting the clocks one hour ahead of the standard time during summer months and back again in the fall. So basically, the difference is that DST is one hour ahead of the standard time during the summer months.

3. When is daylight saving time in 2023?

Daylight saving time 2023 begins on 12th March and ends on 5th November.

4. Do we lose an hour of sleep during daylight saving time?

We lose an hour of sleep when daylight saving time begins in the month of March. And we gain an hour of sleep in November when daylight saving time ends.

5. What would permanent daylight saving time mean?

Permanent daylight saving time means that daylight saving time would be observed year-round, and there wouldn't be any requirement for changing clocks twice a year. Likewise, permanent standard time refers to following the standard time year-round.

6. Which is better, daylight saving time or standard time?

Just like everything, daylight saving time has both pros and cons. To find out which one is better,we need to weigh the pros and cons of both and come to a conclusion. A lot of studies show that standard time is better because the human body's internal clock works in sync with it, and it might be better to abolish daylight saving time and switch to permanent standard time.

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7. Why haven't we abolished daylight saving time yet?

First of all, whether we should follow permanent daylight saving time or standard time is still under debate. Therefore, any decision taken may not be suitable. Moreover, it is hard for a law to pass through legislation. It takes a really long time and is a complex procedure.

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Disclaimer: What is said in this article has been referenced from multiple sources and is intended only for educational and informational purposes. Please note that no content in this article is a substitute for professional advice from a qualified doctor or healthcare provider. Always consult an experienced doctor with any concerns you may have regarding a health condition or treatment, and never disregard any medical suggestions or delay in seeking treatment because of something you read here.


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