Why do we still have Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight saving time ends this Sunday, November 5. We gain an extra hour (and an extra hour of sleep), but will soon be commuting home in pitch blackness for the rest of the year.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? 

Despite what you may have heard, Daylight Saving Time does NOT exist so that farmers can have an extra hour of daylight. It was first proposed to the British Parliament in 1907 as a way to take full advantage of the day’s light. Germany was the first country to implement it, and the United States first took up the practice when we entered World War I, hypothetically to save energy. 

Farmers were actually vehemently opposed to the idea: Less light in the mornings meant they had to rush to get their crops to market, and it’s also terrible for dairy farmers. It’s not just humans who get thrown for a loop, the shift in schedule is hard on cows, too.

Having more daylight in the springtime might have saved energy in the past, but today we’re always powered on, no matter if the sun is up or not. A 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Energy showed the amount of energy saved is negligible.

Here’s something else the original proponents might not have understood-- but certainly they felt it: Changing the clock, even if it’s just by one hour, disrupts our natural circadian rhythm. For most people, that means you’re tired until your body readjusts. For some, however, there can be terrible consequences. 

Studies have linked the lack of sleep from losing an hour in the spring to more car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide, and miscarriages. The early evening darkness in the fall has been linked to depression. The risk of suffering a heart attack increases when Daylight Saving Times begins. However, the extra hour of sleep when we finally fall back has been linked to fewer heart attacks.

So why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Undoing it would take a lot of work, legislation, and cooperation between states to make it work-- so until there’s a unified effort, there’s no end in sight.