The reasons behind Daylight Saving Time

By Carly Newton

Photo by Murray Campbell on Unsplash

If you’re like me, when the clocks ‘spring forward’ an hour in the March, it’s hard to adjust to the time change. Sleeping in an hour later, falling asleep an hour later — your whole sense of time is messed up for at least a week. Coffee can help with the effects of Daylight Saving Time on our bodies, but nothing can really prepare you for that lost hour of time. So why do we do it? What good can losing an hour of sleep do for us? 

Well, Dr. Aileen O’Donoghue, who works in the physics department at St. Lawrence University, helped me answer some questions I had about the long-standing tradition of Daylight Saving Time. 

O’Donoghue said that the time change is definitely difficult on humans, but not having Daylight Saving Time would be even more difficult.

“If we stayed on standard time all year — in the summer, the sun would rise at 4:15 a.m., and in the winter, the sun wouldn’t rise until 8:37 a.m.,” O’Donoghue said.

The effects of this would particularly be felt by certain professions like construction workers who rely on the early morning to get work done that they can’t do in the hot afternoon temperatures during the summer.

O’Donoghue also mentioned that standard time would negatively affect traffic in the winter in some places. 

“Staying on standard time would affect places where it freezes at night and thaws during the day — people would be driving on more ice in their morning commutes which would result in more traffic accidents,” O’Donoghue said.

In today’s working world, society is ruled by the clock, which makes it understandable that we would want our working schedule to align with the daylight hours.

There are many countries around the world that don’t participate in Daylight Saving Time, and there’s even two states in the U.S. that don’t participate either: Hawaii and Arizona.

“Arizona, besides the Navajo nation, doesn’t participate because the state is warm enough that they prefer that the sun sets earlier,” O’Donoghue said.

Will the U.S. as a whole ever stop participating in Daylight Saving Time? Well, O’Donoghue didn’t rule out that possibility. 

“There’s no telling what we may do. We may get congressmen who think it’s stupid and do away with it. Nixon did it in the ‘70s when I was in high school in Colorado. I had to walk to school in the dark,” O’Donoghue said. “It would be more likely that the southern states would stop changing their clocks, but then there’d be a checkerboard of time zones in the U.S.”

O’Donoghue acknowledged that there is no simple decision when it comes to Daylight Saving Time because there will always be something for someone to complain about.

“There’s no good choice. The times between sunrise and sunset change anyways because of the tilt of the earth, and there is nothing we can do about it. And if there was something we could do about — we shouldn’t because the earth’s tilt determines the seasons.”

Well, it seems like Daylight Saving Time isn’t going away anytime soon, so make sure you have enough coffee and enjoy your extra hour of sunlight. 

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