—Story originally published Nov. 4, 2013 and has been updated
Who doesn’t love that extra hour of sleep you get once every fall when the end of Daylight Saving Time rolls around?
Yes, this Sunday at 2 a.m. is the end of Daylight Saving Time, and, if you are like most Americans, you need to set your clocks back one hour.
But when we spring the clocks ahead each spring, could it cost us and the economy more than we realize?
First, a bit of history.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with first coming up with the idea to maximize daylight. He’s said to have realized he could rely less on expensive candles by rising an hour earlier. (Via Biography Channel)
But it wasn’t for another 200 years or so that Germany introduced the concept during World War I to help cut coal consumption. (Via Discovery)
Some say other countries followed suit as a way to help out farmers. Giving them more daylight to farm meant more time in the fields. Or so the story goes. (Via YouTube / Nick Welker)
Thing is, it was the sun, not the clock, that determined the farmers’ schedules. Farmers complained their milking cows didn’t easily adapt to the time change. To this day, most farmers say they see no benefit. (Via Dairy Farming Today)
Fast forward to the 1970s energy crisis when most of the country adopted the practice. Daylight saving became more popular on the idea Americans could save money by keeping the lights off for an extra hour. (Via YouTube / Ella's Archives)
But that was the 1970s. Now, with modern heating and cooling systems, research shows there’s little, if any, gain in energy savings.
We know this because up until 2006, only 15 of Indiana’s 92 counties went along with the time shift. Interestingly, there’s no federal law that makes states observe Daylight Saving Time. (Via TimeAndDate.com)
This 2008 National Bureau of Economic Research study looked at energy use in Indiana and found even when the demand for lighting dropped, the extra hour of daylight increased air conditioning use.
In other words, the time shift ended up costing homeowners more. And that’s not the only reason to question the savings associated with daylight saving.
Experts say messing with people’s sleep schedule can lower productivity and even cause workplace injuries. (Via EHS Today)
And it’s believed that changing sleep patterns can increase one’s risk of heart attacks — as much as 10 percent in the days that followed the time change, according to researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Oh, and it costs the U.S. billions of dollars a year in disruptions to the airline and retail industry, TV ratings and the stock market. So is it time to re-evaluate?
Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor, sure thinks so. He told National Geographic: “The whole proposition that you can gain or lose an hour is at best theoretical. … So I think from the start people had no clear idea what we were doing or why we were doing it. It just generates confusion.”
And judging by this 2012 Rasmussen poll, the majority of Americans seem to agree. Only 37 percent said the change is worth the extra hassle.
But is there a solution? A writer for Quartz makes the case for having just two time zones, suggesting: “This year, Americans on Eastern Standard Time should set their clocks back one hour (like normal), Americans on Central and Rocky Mountain time do nothing, and Americans on Pacific time should set their clocks forward one hour. After that we won’t change our clocks again – no more daylight saving.”
Assuming Congress doesn’t take up that idea anytime soon, for those of you struggling to change the clock in your car, go ahead and just make a note — Daylight Saving Time in 2016 will land on March 13.