We’ve turned our clocks an hour behind yet again, but did anyone stop to wonder why? While there are only a few complaints about the extra hour of sleep, the time change may be affecting us more than we think.
On Last Week Tonight’s “How Is This Still a Thing” segment, the common belief that daylight saving was adopted for farmers was declared a myth. Changing the hour, whether forward or backwards, doesn’t matter to farmers, as “Cows don’t care what time it is.”
In that case, what’s the real reason behind this absurd rule that we follow without hesitation?
In 1908, Thunder Bay, Ontario became the first location to adopt the use of daylight saving. Germany was the first country to adopt the concept, during the First World War, as an attempt to save fuel. The Germans wanted to reduce the use of artificial lighting, so that more fuel could be redirected towards the ongoing war.
Despite its adoption in the 19th century, daylight saving had originally been proposed by various individuals earlier. George Hudson, a New Zealand scientist, proposed back in 1895, that a time shift in October, and a return to standard time in March, would provide people with more sunlight in the summer. However, changing the clock doesn’t produce more sunlight—it only makes it seem as though the sun rises and sets later or earlier in comparison to all other human activities.
The primary reason behind the adoption of daylight saving time has always been energy conservation. However, there is little evidence to support this.
A 2008 paper, titled “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that daylight saving actually increases the demand for electricity within residential homes, with an overall increase of approximately one percent. While this number may seem small, in terms of electricity bills in Indiana, this one percent costs $9 million per year for the state’s residences.
However, when it comes to car accidents, you can argue both in favour and against daylight saving. According to the Manitoba Public Insurance, there was a 20 percent increase in crashes on Manitoba roads on the following Monday, compared to all other Mondays, in spring 2014. On the other hand, since traffic accidents are much more likely to occur in the dark, moving our clocks back means that people will be leaving and returning to their homes while there is still light. In fact, in 2007, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh demonstrated that as seen in seven years of U.S. traffic statistics, there was a decrease in pedestrian deaths in the evening when clocks sprung forward.
The circadian rhythm—the body’s internal clock—is also disrupted by daylight saving. By forcing our bodies to adjust to the unnatural time change, we cause more trouble to our lives. Similar to cows on a farm, our biological rhythms don’t rely on a physical clock change to adjust, but rather more on our daily activities.
On ABC News, Till Roenneberg of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, said, “If we didn’t change to daylight saving time, people would adjust to dawn during the summer and again to dawn in the autumn, but this natural adjustment is interrupted by daylight saving time.”
To this day, 70 countries around the world still observe daylight saving. Although the effects it has on our lives overall are minimal, daylight saving is not entirely beneficial to us either. If you are struggling to adjust to the one-hour confusion this week, think about the many other unusual traditions you follow without even realizing it.