The Earth turns at roughly 1,000 miles per hour, making one revolution toward the east every 24 hours. Obviously, the sun can’t be on both sides of the planet at once, and if you’re trapped in Vladivostok you’re not going to have the same amount of daylight as Denver, or even Moscow. Because of that, the Earth is divided into roughly 38 local time zones to account for it (those Pacific Islands don’t always fit neatly in a zone). Time is counted from Greenwich Mean Time, running through London. Connecticut is in the Eastern Time Zone, which is Greenwich time minus 5 hours (Midnight in London is 7 pm in Hartford – think back to all the TV shows of newsrooms with multiple clocks showing times in other countries.)
And just when you think it’s safe to call your friend in Italy, we get hit with Daylight Savings Time. DST is something everyone dreads, turning the clocks ahead one hour to somehow “gain” more daylight hours (the sun and Earth don’t actually change, and can’t give more light than they do). Everyone gets lost, from trying to remember when you’re supposed to turn your clocks forward or backward, to losing an hour’s sleep, to a sudden massive shift in your hours of light. This year, we turn our clocks back to Eastern Standard Time on November 6.
So why do we even bother? Some states don’t do it. The majority of the world doesn’t do it (only 70 countries do). Why do we torture ourselves? It wasn’t always this way. And no, it’s never been about farmers, or kids going to school.
The idea of stretching usable daylight hours (because people would rather stay up later than get up an hour earlier for the same amount of light) actually began in Prince Edward Isle, Canada in 1908. It lasted a few months, and then they were done.
The second try came in 1916 in Germany, trying to conserve fuel during the war (back then it was the only war). Other countries soon followed. The US didn’t jump on the bandwagon until 1918 – and even then we only did it for 7 months before repealing the act (i.e., the war was over). We tried it again in 1942-45 (war again), and then it was fairly random between states until the 1966 Uniform Time Act. In 1973, we stayed on Daylight Savings Time for a full year (I don’t remember this) due to the great Oil Embargo, when fuel was expensive and hard to get (I do remember the gas rationing. No, really. We did that, here in the US.) but then we went back to Eastern Standard Time.
If we hate changing clocks, why do we still do it? There’s overwhelming public support for stopping it. Changing time – and all its demands – does a job on our bodies. Consider that in the week following the leap to Daylight Savings Time:
Fatal traffic accidents increase 6%.
Heart attacks increase 24%
Strokes increase 8%
Depression increases 11%
People with cancer are 20% more likely to have a stroke
There are increases in drug use, digestive and immune disorders, injuries, and complications in pregnancy and delivery.
There is a very real effect on people when you mess with time – let alone the poor airlines trying to track their speed and landing times when Denver is on savings time but Phoenix isn’t, but tomorrow it changes.
In 2018, Congress introduced The Sunshine Protection Act . It was slated to take place in spring of 2023. We’d go on to Daylight Savings in the spring and just never come off again, no more switching. It passed the Senate, but is still stuck in the House, and still hasn’t passed yet.
To minimize the effects of time changes:
- Keep your regular sleep habits
- Get outside in the morning to reset your inner clock
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and blue light (phone use!) two hours before bed
- Exercise in the morning
- Call your representative to see what’s holding up the bill!
While you wait for Congress and figure out how to change your car’s clock yet again, check out these books on maximizing your sleep!