6 "Facts" About Daylight Saving Time That Are Anything But

A 17th century woodcut of an elaborate mechanical clock.
Smithsonian Design Museum

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is almost here, which means a little grumpy due to sleep loss and more than a few repeated but false claims about the whole thing. Here are some of the most common myths about daylight saving time.

DST stands for summer time

Although it is commonly called “daylight savings in North America and Australia the correct term is “daylight”aving as in “we save daylight”.

However, not all countries call it that. In the UK, this is called “summer time”, which translates to “horario de verano” in Spanish, the official name of DST in Paraguay and Chile. The Italians call it “ora legale”, which means “legal time”.

Benjamin Franklin invented daylight saving time

The invention of DST is often attributed to the American founding father, Benjamin Franklin. As an American envoy to France, he offers Parisians changed their sleep schedule to make better use of daylight in 1784. His suggestion, however, was purely satirical.

It was actually George Hudson of New Zealand who introduced the modern concept of daylight saving time in 1895. Entomologist interested in maximizing his time outdoors to hunt insects, Hudson came up with the idea a two-hour shift to take advantage of longer days in the summer.

However, William Willett, a British builder, gets all the credit for daylight saving time. In 1905 he did the same thing as Hudson, proposed him to the British Parliament, and fought for him. The DST finally became law in 1916, unfortunately only a year after Willett’s death. The United States followed suit in 1918.

DST was mainly for farmers

Since the introduction of the uniform time law in 1966, farmers have been the biggest opponents of daylight saving time, not the biggest beneficiaries. Indeed, they have opposed the idea for years. This is because advancing the clock one hour in summer has given farmers less time to harvest their produce. It was exactly the opposite of what many have been led to believe.

Department stores have benefited most from summer time. This extra hour of daylight in the evening gave workers more time to shop before going home for dinner. To date, the retail industry has been the biggest beneficiary of the time change tradition.

DST is good for the environment

When it was created, DST could have been good for the environment. In fact, his main selling point was that it would help save energy. Because people would spend more time outside in the evening, they would use less electricity at home.

Times have changed, however. We now have air conditioning and a 24 hour economy. Studies have shown that, when they are averaged over a whole year, the energy savings of summer time are so low that they are almost impossible to measure with precision.

In fact, the savings calculated are less than the margin of error in the studies that have been conducted. This means that daylight saving time could even lead to higher energy consumption. Such a study in Indiana, found that more energy was used during daylight saving time.

DST is good for your health

Some people say that because you get more daylight during the DST months, you are necessarily healthier. After all, it theoretically means that you will have more sun because you will be spending more time outside moving around. While this may be true, people who live in colder climates who observe daylight saving time do not exactly do marathons or sunbathing in the snow.

On the other hand, the DST is not as bad as its detractors would have you believe either. Although some studies have shown a higher incidence of heart attacks and car accident deaths in the days following the time change, it is not as catastrophic as it seems.

For starters, correlation doesn’t mean causation – DST doesn’t kill you alone. The problem is that it creates a kind of mini jet lag. A one hour change in your sleep schedule affects your circadian rhythm in the same way as jet lag, which creates unwanted side effects.

However, they are only temporary. Daylight saving time does not occur every week, so its health effects are nothing to worry about.

If you can add or subtract 10 to 15 minutes to or from your sleep schedule each day of the week before the time change, it could help ease the transition a little better.

DST is observed worldwide

While it would make things easier if everyone used daylight saving time, only 78 countries did. They are mainly countries of the northern hemisphere, far from the equator.

There is really no significant difference in the number of daylight hours between summer and winter in the equatorial countries. Why play with the clock when the amount of daylight barely changes throughout the year?

In the United States, only Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight saving time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.