Time for a Change?

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Standard time returns Nov. 1, and so does the debate about moving the clock twice a year

Mary Best Sleep Savvy magazine editor in chief
Mary Best
Editor in Chief

One of the days of the year I dread most is the first Sunday of November when I have to reset my clocks from daylight saving time to standard time. While moving clocks back an hour may not seem like a big deal, to me it signifies the beginning of darker days, colder weather and the coming of winter. Daylight fading to night before many people arrive home from work, well, is depressing and disorienting. And then, once home, it feels more like midnight than 5:30 p.m. 

DST was introduced in the United States and many European countries during World War I. First instituted in Germany and Austria in 1916, the United States followed March 31, 1918, as an energy conservation measure. After the war, the time change proved so unpopular, it was repealed in 1919.

DST returned during World War II when Franklin D. Roosevelt reinstated a year-round time change from Feb. 9, 1942, to Sept. 30, 1945. Following the war, chaos ensued when, in the absence of federal oversight, states and communities were able to decide if they wanted to observe DST or not. Can you image the confusion? 

Cooler heads prevailed when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, establishing DST from April through October. (Participation is optional. Today, only Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST.) While the law has been revised several times, including being extended in 2005 to eight months a year, it remains intact.

Frankly, I am a card-carrying member of the “make DST permanent club.” And I’m not alone. In a Sept. 15 article posted on Time magazine’s website, former Utah Sen. Orin Hatch wrote: “The argument for making DST permanent is strong in a normal year — but amid a global pandemic, it’s stronger than ever. … Each year, we see higher rates of depression associated with less exposure to sunlight; higher energy consumption across the country; higher traffic fatalities with more Americans driving in the dark; higher incidence of crime; and a steep decline in retail sales with fewer consumers willing to shop at night.”

Indeed, a 2016 survey by Washington, D.C.-based JPMorgan Chase Institute found that beginning and ending of DST “is associated with a 0.9% increase in daily (credit and debit) card spending per capita in Los Angeles at the beginning of DST and a reduction in daily card spending per capita of 3.5% at the end of DST.” Similar results were found in Denver and San Diego.

Of course, not everyone is a fan, including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which is calling for the abolishment of DST because it disrupts our circadian rhythms. (See story in our sister publication, BedTimes.)  Further, the organization conducted a large survey in July and found that 63% favored doing away with the time change.

In a world facing the novel coronavirus, political strife and myriad other issues, I wouldn’t put DST in the top 10 critical problems of our time, but it does affect sleep and retail sales. Should DST stay or go?