A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent beginning in 2023, making changing our clocks back and forth twice a year a thing of the past.
The Sunshine Protection Act still needs House approval, but if it passes, the “spring forward” time most Americans live on during the warmer months of the year will remain permanent.
That means later sunrises and sunsets.
Sleep scientists argue that keeping daylight saving time over standard time would leave Americans permanently out of sync with their natural circadian rhythms and schedules, which could cause significant health problems, among other things.
But before we go on, let’s answer the decades-old question of “why do we still have daylight saving time anyway?”
Originally, daylight saving was meant to reduce energy consumption by setting clocks forward, extending daylight hours further into the evening.
The thought was that with more sunlight, people would use less electricity for artificial lighting.
But what does science say?
Researchers suggest that changing how we consume energy means daylight saving time no longer saves enough electricity to be consequential.
A 2008 study found that moving clocks forward, on the contrary, increased electricity consumption as people started using more power-hungry appliances, like air-conditioning, later in the evening.
The U.S. population has also drifted south in recent decades, with population growth in states like Arizona, Texas, and Florida significantly surpassing the Northern states. Southern states see a lesser seasonal difference in daylight hours, which reduces the need to “save” daylight.
One study found a small but significant increase in road accidents on the Monday after the time change due to the lost hour of sleep affecting people’s driving ability. Other studies found the rate of workplace injuries and even heart attacks tend to increase shortly after the U.S. “springs forward.”
Scientists are also concerned that making people wake up earlier and fall asleep later than their natural body clocks dictate may increase sleep deprivation, linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, dementia, and other health issues.
We have already tried this before.
In 1974, The U.S. tried a permanent switch to daylight saving time to save energy during the oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. But after complaints from parents about schools starting in the dark and a slew of road accidents involving children, the U.S. abandoned the practice by October 1974.
Sleep deprivation is already endemic among teenagers because they have to wake up early to go to school. Teens inherently have a naturally later sleep cycle than children and adults, which means, in a perfect world, they should be able to wake up later in the day to stay in sync with their body clocks.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the Protecting Sunshine Act, suggested that schools start later in response to concerns that students would be going to school in the dark, stating, “We start school in this country at the worst possible time for adolescents.”
There’s also the fact that Americans generally hate changing the time on their clocks, according to a 2019 poll that found that 70% of Americans would prefer leaving their clocks alone.
So, what say you?
Which do you prefer?
Eternally “spring forward” or “fall back” and stay there?