Shedding Light on Daylight Savings Time

Although most people lose an hour of sleep the first night of daylight savings time, the idea behind it was to make people more productive and save energy during the evening hours.

Each spring, regions around the world adjust the clocks to move one hour ahead. This contributes to more sunlight during the evening hours and, theoretically, helps conserve energy.

Daylight savings time (DST) was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, who felt it would help increase productivity in the early evening by increasing the hours of sunlight during the warmer months. Franklin also felt DST would be a good way to save on candles, among other energy used to artificially light areas once the sun had set.

Some people have mistakenly thought that DST was created to benefit the farmer. But no studies have proven that more sunlight in the evening positively affects a farmer’s schedule or the growing cycle of crops.

DST also doesn’t have too great an impact on energy conservation. Many studies have shown little to no energy savings from having more sunlight in the evening. That is because even if the lights are turned off, other things are turned on, such as air conditioners and pool filters for individuals enjoying the added sunlight hours instead of retiring early to bed.

There have been points throughout history when DST did help conserve energy. This occurred mainly during the World Wars, when conservation of energy helped divert money and fuel sources toward the war effort.

While it may not help save energy, a 2007 study by RAND determined that DST does help reduce vehicular crashes, perhaps due to better visibility when on the road in the spring and summer.

DST is now done largely out of habit. In the United States, from 1986 to 2006, DST began on the first Sunday in April and continued through the last Sunday in October. However, starting in 2007, it is now observed from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, adding about a month of extra sunlight in the evening.

DST is not required in the U.S., but if states do participate, they must do so according to the federal schedule. Arizona, Hawaii, areas of Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are among the U.S. areas that do not participate in DST, choosing instead to operate on standard time all year long.

In 2011, DST will occur on March 13 at 2 a.m. Individuals will be “springing ahead,” moving the clock an hour forward and losing an hour of sleep. As people hit the snooze alarm another time, they can thank Benjamin Franklin for that lost hour of sleep. TF113494

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