Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

Spring marks many changes: warmer weather, longer days, blooming flowers—and, for many people around the world, the beginning of daylight saving time.

The idea behind the clock shift, often incorrectly called daylight saving time (DST), is to maximize sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere.


What is Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight.

US inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept of DST in 1784, but modern Daylight Saving Time was first suggested in 1895.

Clocks Back or Forward?

"Spring forward, fall back" is one of the little sayings used to remember which way to set your watch. You set your clock forward one hour in the spring when DST starts (= lose 1 hour), and back one hour when DST ends in the fall (= regain 1 hour).

What is the Purpose of Daylight Saving Time?

Many think that daylight saving time was conceived to give farmers an extra hour of sunlight to till their fields, but this is a common misconception. In fact, farmers have long been opposed to springing forward and falling back, since it throws off their usual harvesting schedule.

The real reasons for daylight saving are based on energy conservation and a desire to match daylight hours to the times when most people are awake. The idea dates back to 1895 when entomologist George Vernon Hudson unsuccessfully proposed an annual two-hour time shift to the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Ten years later, the British construction magnate William Willett picked up where Hudson left off when he argued that the United Kingdom should adjust their clocks by 80 minutes each spring and fall to give people more time to enjoy daytime recreation. Willett was a tireless advocate of what he called "Summer Time," but his idea never made it through Parliament.

The first real experiments with daylight saving time began during World War I. On April 30, 1916, Germany and Austria implemented a one-hour clock shift to conserve electricity needed for the war effort. The United Kingdom and several other European nations adopted daylight saving shortly after that, and the United States followed suit in 1918. (While Germany and Austria were the first countries to implement daylight savings, the first towns to implement a seasonal time shift were Port Arthur and Fort William, Canada in 1908.)

How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Your Health?

It's not your imagination that you feel sleepier after you spring forward for daylight saving time. Research shows that losing just one hour of sleep during the time change can disrupt your internal clock for several days.

To remedy DST tiredness, experts have come up with a few tips. First, consider gradually altering your sleep schedule as the time approaches. Try going to bed a few minutes earlier to ease your way into the time change.

Alternatively, you could do nothing and try to stick to your old sleep routine. Reducing sleep disruptors like caffeine, alcohol, exercise, and screens before bed will also help you sleep soundly.

Fortunately, most people can acclimate to the time change within a week or so.

Does Everyone Observe Daylight Saving Time?

Most countries don't observe daylight saving, and most of those that do are within Europe, but there are exceptions. European countries that skip DST include Belarus, Iceland, Georgia, and Russia.

In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized daylight saving across the country and established its start and end times in April and October (later changed to March and November in 2007). Meanwhile, Hawaii and Arizona have opted out of daylight saving all together and remain on standard time year-round.

Do We Still Need Daylight Saving Time?

Today, daylight saving time is used in dozens of countries across the globe, but it remains a controversial practice. Most studies show that its energy savings are only negligible, and some have even found that costs are higher since people in hot climates are more apt to use air conditioners in the daytime.

Daylight Saving Time could soon be a thing of the past in Europe.
On March 26, 2019, the European Parliament voted in favor of backing the EU Committee draft directive to stop the one-hour clock change in the European Union.
The proposal is another formal step towards a permanent elimination of DST in the EU and will form the basis of discussions between the EU Ministers to produce a final law repealing Directive 2000/84/EC, the EU's existing DST legislation.

In 2022, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would move the US to permanent daylight saving time. But the bill has not received a vote in the House of Representatives.

Many are not fans of time change. If you had the choice, would you prefer to keep daylight saving time or not?

Time and Date1,2
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
World Data
Web Exhibits
National Geographic
Save On Energy
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Deseret News
Greenwich Mean Time
The National