The downsides of daylight savings

Every time November rolls around I have mixed feelings. The weather is nice, there are plenty of short weeks, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But there’s this ever-looming event on my mind: daylight savings. It happens every year and yet I am still disappointed every time we lose an hour of daylight after school. 

The practice of changing the clocks for daylight saving dates back to Benjamin Franklin’s theory of getting the most usable hours of daylight. It became an American custom (with the exception of Arizona) during the first World War as a way to conserve energy. It was permanently implemented again during the second World War, and has been in place ever since. 

Daylight saving time is between mid March and early November, meaning that standard time lasts the rest of the year, between November and March. Both schedules have their benefits and drawbacks, but the main problem with daylight savings is the biannual switching, a process that 60% of Americans want to get rid of. Not only does this switch increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and fatal car accidents in its aftermath, it also reduces the productivity of students and members of the workforce. A permanent time change would prevent 33 human deaths, 2,054 human injuries, and save 1.19 billion dollars in damages from car crashes caused by the daylight saving jet-lag, according to NPR. 

When our circadian rhythms are interrupted, as they are by the sudden time change brought on by daylight savings, our bodies are unable to quickly adjust. Mistakes are made out of exhaustion; they could be simple ones, like forgetting to change the clocks or forgetting your computer at school. However, they could also be more serious; falling asleep at the wheel or forgetting to take necessary medications. These short term bursts of sleep-deprived confusion also contribute to spikes in cluster headaches and other exhaustion-related medical conditions that become more prominent after the time change. 

People counter that the extra hour of sleep on that one Sunday in November makes it worth it, but does one day counteract the almost five months of shortened after-school daylight? Walking home in the dark, doing homework and playing sports after the sun sets, all for one extra hour of sleep, one day a year? Not to mention the negative impacts of the switch itself. 

The period of early-sunset between November and March also contributes to depression, especially for younger people. The afternoon darkness creates an overarching feeling of gloominess, exacerbating the onslaught of seasonal depression that often affects people (including us high-schoolers) in the winter months, and negatively impacting mental health as well as productivity and motivation in the long term. About 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal depression, and as the days get shorter depression usually increases. Melatonin, a hormone released for sleep, can be released earlier due to the lack of light exposure, decreasing people’s energy and affecting their eating habits. 

As we approach mid-March, the phrase “Fall Back, Spring Forward” echoes around my head while I struggle to remember how to reset my clocks. After spending so much time counting down until December 21st, hoping for longer and lighter days, it is a relief that the end is in sight. I plan to spend the next few months enjoying the lengthened days and preparing for the celebration I’ll have when daylight saving time (hopefully!) goes away.