Is Daylight Savings Really Beneficial?

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Is Daylight Savings Really Beneficial?

Branden Leong, Staff Writer

Each year, millions of people around the world set their clocks forward in the spring by an hour, only to change them back in the fall, according to Daylight Savings Time (DST). The vast majority of the world who doesn’t participate in this may think this is such a ludicrous thing to do. So, who started this strange tradition, and does it still pertain to a modern society like ours? In 1895, George Hudson first proposed the idea of a two-hour shift to the Wellington Philosophical Society in New Zealand. The idea behind this was to give people more sunlight in the summer. When winter came, the clocks were set back again, as people did not want to spend as much time outside when it was colder. This clock-fiddling, though it was meant to benefit people, may actually be harming citizens in countries that participate, both biologically and economically.

Every time we add and subtract an hour from our clocks, we are changing our circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, dramatically. Before the spring clock change, people go to sleep at the same time they usually do but must get up an hour earlier to still be on normal schedule. And, the reverse happens in the fall. This may be just a slight annoyance for some people, but changes in sleep schedule can have drastic impacts on your health and immunity. In a study by Health, heart attacks, strokes, and cluster headaches spike after one or both of the time changes. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression and suicide, both of which have a higher-than-normal occurrence after the spring time change. Also, Mayo Clinic says that sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immunity by not producing certain cytokines and antibodies, but that’s another subject for another time.

In World War I, the Germans thought that Daylight Savings was an amazing idea because it would save energy by causing people to stay outdoors longer rather than being inside under artificial lighting powered by coal. While this may be true for a less-industrialized world back then, does it still apply to the modern world we live in today? Take, for instance, one of mankind’s greatest inventions: the air conditioner, the magical cooling machine that makes otherwise uninhabitable places actually quite tolerable. But, pumping heat out of your house is extremely costly, and the same energy is used as running hundreds of light bulbs, simultaneously. If Daylight Savings gives more sunshine, but it is never wanted, then the entire system is totally pointless, and can actually cost electricity, not save it. For example, the average summer high in Phoenix, Arizona, is 105 degrees Fahrenheit, while the all-time high is 122 degrees. If you suggest to an Arizonan to change their clocks forward in the summer to get more sunlight, they’d laugh, as more sunlight and higher electricity bills are exactly what the don’t want. In fact, Arizona is one of the two states to ignore Daylight Savings (Hawaii is the other, and it doesn’t matter if they change the clocks forward or backward; every day is a perfect day for the beach).

So then, how much does Daylight Savings cost or save? While studies disagree on whether it is beneficial to our economy or not, they can all agree that the effect size is not 20%, 10%, but a mere 1%, saving or costing the average American four dollars a year on electricity. This is an extremely measly percentage, especially one that tries (but fails) to make up for the health risks listed above. Also, messing with clocks internationally can lead to complicated timekeeping, where Sydney and London are 11, then 10, then 9 hours apart, and New York City and London are 5, then 4, then again 5 hours apart, all in the same month. This complex system all happens once again in the fall, but reversed. Keeping track of international Daylight Saving days disrupts travel, billing, and record-keeping, to say the least. In the past, this may not have mattered so much, but in our interconnected world where international meetings happen thousands of times daily, Daylight Savings really isn’t helping much.

Okay, so planning international meetings around the globe can be difficult to coordinate, but what’s the big deal. Just stay within your own country, and everything should run smoothly, right? Wrong. Brazil follows DST, but only if you live in the south; as does Canada, except in Saskatchewan; and does Australia, except Western Australia, the Northern Territory, or Queensland. Even the United States has exceptions, like its territories plus Hawaii and Arizona. But, even Arizona isn’t consistent within itself! A very confusing layout in Arizona that covers the Navajo Nation and the Hopi reservation means that driving a 100-mile stretch WITHIN Arizona would require seven time changes. In conclusion, Daylight Savings messes up circadian rhythm, lowers immune, uses more electricity, complicates international scheduling, and costs thousands upon thousands of dollars in loss of efficiency.