Sunrise at 6:30 a.m. and sunset at 9 p.m. Playing outside with a friend on a warm day late into the evening until you can’t see each other anymore. Eating dinner with natural light streaming in through the windows. These are all things we can thank daylight saving time for. In the United States, we all go through the “spring forward” ritual every March, grumbling about how we lost an hour of sleep and acting so surprised when it is suddenly still light outside at 7 p.m. We of course get to lavish in getting that extra hour back when the times comes to “fall back” to standard time in November, but what if we stopped doing this and permanently stayed in daylight-saving year-round?
Daylight saving time was first used in the United States during WWI as a measure to save electricity. With the time change in effect, people would ideally spend more waking hours in daylight, meaning that they would need less electricity to power light sources at night. After the war ended, it was left up to states to decide whether or not to keep daylight saving in effect. The same thing happened during WWII, and in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which made daylight saving time a federal law.
More recently, there has been a push for the United States to permanently stay in either standard or daylight saving time. The Senate passed a bill last year to make daylight saving permanent, though it is yet to pass through the House of Representatives. Permanent daylight saving would mean that it would be daylight outside later in the day all year rather than just the eight months we currently spend in daylight saving.
Making daylight saving time permanent would come with a few benefits. For one, there would be no need to “spring forward” or “fall back” anymore. The dreaded sleepiness that comes with losing an hour of sleep every March would no longer be an issue for everyone to suffer through. This tiredness can be the cause of lost productivity for a day or two following the time change. If we stopped switching the clocks twice a year, however, this would no longer be a problem.
Permanently staying in daylight saving could also have an effect on mental health. Research from the journal Epidemiology suggests a correlation between “falling back” at the end of daylight saving and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression. This may be due to the fact that the sudden time change messes with the body’s circadian rhythm and that the sun setting earlier means we get less sunlight, which can affect mood. Permanently staying in daylight saving could help decrease this phenomenon, as there would be no time change to mess with our bodies’ circadian rhythm and we would have sunlight later into the day when more people are awake and able to enjoy it.
Staying in daylight saving time also promotes safety. Increased daylight later in the day means increased visibility on the road, which helps lower the risk of pedestrians getting hit by an automobile and reduces the number of car accidents. A 2015 study also found that robberies went down seven percent following the shift to daylight savings, especially during daylight hours. These two things also help people feel safer staying out later into the evening. If daylight saving were to be implemented permanently, this feeling of safety would remain year-round.
Daylight saving time can also encourage more people to lead active lifestyles. Extended daylight in the evening means that people will have more time after work to participate in outdoor activities, especially those who work 9-5 jobs. Kids will have more time to play outside during the entire year. More activities would be able to take place outside later in the day, and more people would likely be willing to participate in them.
Maybe it’s time to ditch the “springing forward” and “falling back” we do every year. We wouldn’t have to worry so much about losing that hour of sleep in March, and we could enjoy daylight later in the day year-round. It’s a win for everyone!