Daylight savings time is a period of 238 days (or 34 weeks) where our clocks are set back an hour, primarily to help save energy. Many people don’t realize that the switch to daylight savings time costs far more than the value of the energy it saves.
Just about everybody hates the first day of daylight savings time. Who wants to get up an hour earlier than they’re used to, right? Well, at least we finally gained that hour back. At 2 AM on November 7th, daylight savings time came to an end, and some people believe it should stay that way.
Suddenly waking up an hour earlier than you’re used to, doing so every day, and forcing yourself to adjust is more than just annoying—it’s dangerous. In fact, the week after daylight savings time begins, the number of car crashes increases significantly, and the number of fatal car crashes raises by about 6%. That accounts for around 28 additional deaths every year.
In addition to the driving dangers, there are also health risks associated with daylight savings time. These health risks come with the upset of the body’s circadian rhythm. Forcing our bodies to switch schedules immediately and for a long period of time can throw off the circadian rhythm and cause plenty of side effects, none of which are particularly enjoyable. In particular, there is an increased risk of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular issues associated with the shift, though more common are effects on anxiety, depression, and especially stress, as these effects are frequent for many people when they don’t sleep well. Stress, in particular, can be worsened by the change, as it is likely pre-existing and it simply became more difficult to deal with because of the immediate and significant schedule change.
For reasons such as these, many states are considering getting rid of the time change. In particular, there is debate over whether or not daylight savings time should be made permanent; two Florida congressmen recently introduced a bill that, if passed, would make that happen. This would mean that time would work the same as it currently does during the summer, and we won’t be waking up an hour later during late fall and the winter months. In this way, daylight will still be saved during the summer, spring, and early fall, while during the winter and late fall we will still be getting up when it’s relatively dark and going to sleep when it’s dark. If we were to not return to daylight savings time, winter would look the same but we would be losing an hour of daylight during the summer.
Although it sounds like this would be the best choice, it might host some problems of its own. Scientific research actually suggests that remaining in standard time—the time we will experience until March 13 of next year—may be the better, safer option. We still eliminate the time switch and don’t need to switch back to daylight savings time again to do so, but supposedly, remaining in standard time will reduce the risk of many cancers that correlate with both circadian disruption and daylight savings time.
So should we refrain from returning to daylight savings time? Maybe so. However, this is no easy task. Energy efficiency would be decreased with no doubt but eliminating the time switch will literally save lives. Staying in daylight savings time would mean that we only have one more dangerous time switch to go through, but it isn’t necessarily worth it if we could be exposing ourselves to other health issues. At the end of the day, the decision is left up to the legislators, but the more advocates there are against the time switch, the more likely they will decide to end it.