“Spring ahead, fall back” – the motto that sparks dread, excitement, or confusion, depending on your part of the world, your sleep schedule, and just how many kids might be waking you up an hour earlier when they didn’t get the memo. Daylight saving time (DST) has reached controversial levels of discussion in recent years, as experts try to determine just what to do with the age-old tradition stemming from the World War I era. Here’s what you need to know about DST.
First Things First: When Does Daylight Saving Time 2023 Begin?
Mark your calendars: Daylight saving time begins on Sunday, March 12, 2023, at 2:00 a.m. At this time, we “lose” an hour, and your alarm clock might feel much earlier than the previous morning. (P.S.: You might want to bookmark our best tips for adjusting to the time change.)
Is This the Last Daylight Saving Time?
Multiple states are in various stages of legislation trying to determine if DST should end. However, as of now, no final decision has been made, and DST will proceed as normal.
Which States Want to Get Rid of Daylight Saving Time?
In addition to Hawaii and Arizona, which are the only two states that don’t observe DST, multiple others have supported the idea of eliminating DST, although no action has been solidified yet. The Hill reports a new bill has yet to be introduced to the new Congress. However, as of October 2022, at least 19 states were in favor of moving to permanent standard time, as Arizona and Hawaii have now, including Alabama, Ohio, Washington, South Carolina, and many others.
If you’re curious to see which side of the debate your state falls into, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures’ database, which includes a running list of which states that have introduced legislation to eliminate DST.
What’s Going On With the Sunshine Protection Act?
Update, 3/3/2023: According to The Hill, Senator Marco Rubio has reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act into the Senate, where it passed unanimously last year. “This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” he said in an official statement. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”
In 2021, Rubio sponsored the Sunshine Protection Act, which would eliminate the twice-yearly transition between DST and standard time, and instead make daylight saving time permanent. Though it has passed the Senate, it has stalled since, and all eyes are on the government as the original proposed date to move to permanent DST, Nov. 5, 2023, approaches. It remains unclear if the House of Representatives will take up the bill.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) told The Hill in an October 2022 interview that the House Energy and Commerce Committee was balancing several other priorities. “I can’t say it’s a priority,” he said at the time. Somewhat confusingly, he then went on to add, “We have so many other priorities, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a priority that we’re not trying to work on.”
TLDR: The bill is currently stalled in the House.
So… Are We Moving to Permanent Daylight Saving Time?
A complete switch to permanent DST would require coordination between states, and more probably, the official passing of the Sunshine Protection Act, or similar legislation, which hasn’t happened yet.
Is Permanent Daylight Saving Time Better for You Than Permanent Standard Time?
This is debatable, and experts are still trying to figure out the full ramifications of moving to permanent DST. One concern is that it would mean many months of waking in darkness, sending kids to bus stops in the dark, and a general reduction in how much light we are exposed to in the morning.
Instead, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is pro-permanent standard time, which would mean lighter mornings and darker evenings, saying it better aligns with our circadian rhythms. Many other health experts fall into the same camp.
Dr. Shelby Harris, a psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine and Sleepopolis’ director of sleep health, wrote in a previous op-ed that having kids attend classes in the dark morning hours, if DST was permanent, will exacerbate the already rampant mental health crisis for them. Other experts have expressed concerns about permanent DST leading to heart attack risks, spikes in traffic accidents, and unusual levels of sleepiness.
When Was Daylight Saving Time Created?
Daylight saving time was originally called “war time,” as it was created in 1918 during World War I, to allow for additional daylight hours to save energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. This was also the birth of the five time zones now giving us so much trouble scheduling Zoom calls across the country still. However, “war time” was short lived, repealed just a year and a half later at the end of the war.
In World War II, the dilemma arose again, trying to help conserve fuel and promote security and defense. In 1945, the states gained power over the decision instead, causing much confusion for two decades after that. Finally, in 1966, Congress passed the act that allowed national control over the local times, creating daylight savings time.
Why Do We Still Have Daylight Saving Time? What’s the Point?
Truthfully, it’s hard to say. While DST originated to save on energy costs, the jury is out on whether it achieves that effect today (though as Popular Mechanics points out, one of the challenges when conducting research on this topic is that DST has now been in effect for so long, it’s hard to say what energy use would be like without it).
Plus, the transition is nothing if not annoying to most people. Overall, the general consensus seems to be that it’s no longer a necessity of the modern world.
Seriously, Whose Idea Was This?
Ben Franklin is often credited (or blamed, depending on your perspective) for the original idea of daylight saving time. That’s thanks to a 1784 essay he wrote suggesting that people rise with the morning sun to save money on burning candles.
In fact, the concept of actually implementing some form of time change originated in 1895 with George Hudson, a “bug guy” (a.k.a. entomologist) from New Zealand who just wanted another hour collecting bugs in the summer, according to National Geographic. No one found the idea convincing until 1907, when British builder William Willett started officially lobbying the British Parliament for a national clock-changing policy.
Unfortunately for Mr. Hudson, he’s often overshadowed by Willett and Franklin’s contributions to the DST effort. Little did he know he’s set off a worldwide, centuries-long debate for those fascinating little bugs.