The Science and History Behind Why We Practice Daylight Savings Time
The end of daylight savings time (DST) is just around the corner on November 3rd. It's has always been one of those things we just did but never really thought about. An hour forward, an hour backward, year after year. But did you know that daylight savings time is actually an ingenious way to help save on energy consumption? While it may seem complicated, understanding the science and history of DST will help you make sense of it all.
What is daylight savings time?
Simply put, DST is the custom of moving your clocks forward and backward an hour at specific times of the year. During the summer, the earth’s axis is tilted toward the sun, resulting in longer and hotter days. However, during the winter, the hemisphere in question is now tilted away from the sun, causing shorter and colder winter days.
The DST concept was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, as he was trying to figure out a way to take advantage of the longer summer days. In doing so, he would be able to help people cut down on candle usage and conserve valuable lamp oil. Benjamin Franklin would eventually be swept up in politics and the idea was never fully developed in his time.
It wasn’t until July 1st, 1908 did a small community of Canadians turn their clocks an hour forward to mark the first time DST was used. However, Germany lays claim for the first country to implement it nationwide in 1916, just two years into World War 1. Within two years, many of the leading world powers had adopted the same system.
Simply put, it was suggested so that people would have more hours of daylight. It was also because fuel sources were rationed during WW1, and so if people had more daylight hours to work, then they’d be able to conserve more fuel. This was the same line of thinking adopted by every other country when they began using the system.
However, the actual idea of daylight savings time is much older, potentially older than time itself. Clocks and timekeeping only became widely adopted from the 16th-17th century, and before this time people simply worked while it was light. Although clocks date back to the 14th century, only monks had them.
This basically translates to the fact that people worked more in the summer and less in the winter. While this seems obvious, it’s also worth considering the fact that our concept of time has little bearing on the change of seasons and the way a day actually works. Since it has been implemented DST has helped save millions of dollars every year in energy consumption.
How does daylight savings time affect us?
One of the most interesting things about daylight savings time is the controversy it causes. Many people have an easy time adjusting to the one hour difference and adjust their clocks when necessary. However, many people are concerned about the potential health risks of daylight savings time. According to the latter group, DST has been known to increase the risk of car accidents and heart attacks during the period of adjustment. However, if you think about it this way, the jet lag effects of flying from LA to New York are much more pronounced and impactful than a one hour difference twice a year.
The implementation of DST and changing clocks have a much less impact on people nowadays. This is because, for many, their main way of telling the time is going to be a smart device, like a smartphone or a smartwatch. These devices update their time and date settings automatically, meaning you’re much less likely to notice the difference.
If you noticed that your body is particularly sensitive to this one hour difference, you can try adjusting your clock gradually by 20 minutes each night for three nights instead of an hour over one night. This will help prevent the sleep-depriving effect of DST, allowing your body adjust to the change and prevent ensuing accidents.