North Americans will enjoy an extra hour of fun, or sleep, this weekend! That’s because Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on November 5, which means that the clocks will turn back an hour. In addition to adding an extra 60 minutes to Sunday, this simple action effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, making it easier to wake up.
Benjamin Franklin first suggested manipulating the clocks as a way to save candles in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784. However, the famous polymath, and Founding Father of the United States, is believed to have suggested the idea in jest.
George Hudson, on the other hand, was utterly serious when he recommended moving the clocks by two hours in 1895. The New Zealand entomologist wanted the additional spring daylight hours to study insects. In 1907, British resident William Willet thought it would be a great way to save electricity.
However, the idea was never considered seriously until April 1916, when Germany adopted DST to reduce the use of artificial light and save coal. A few other countries, including the US and Britain, followed shortly after. However, all reverted to Standard Time once the war ended.
The pattern was repeated during World War II. Though national DST was repealed in the US once the battle ended, states and districts were allowed to continue the ritual, and even vary the start and stop dates.
The seemingly good idea turned into what Time Magazine called a “chaos of clocks.” By 1965, the state of Iowa alone, boasted 23 distinct pairs of DST start and stop dates. To end the confusion, in 1966, the US Congress passed a Uniform Time Act that outlined the beginning and end dates for DST for the entire nation. However, since it was not mandatory, Hawaii, most of Arizona, and the US territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, The Northern Marina Islands and the US Virgin Islands — opted out.
Though the 1966 law stipulated DST start on the last Sunday in April and end on the final Sunday in October, it has since been changed twice. In 1986, US President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-359 that moved the start time to the first Sunday in April. Among the many reasons cited for the change was providing children with more daylight outdoor playtime.
More recently, US President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which among other things extended DST by four weeks! The change, which took effect in 2007, revised the start date to the second Sunday in March and pushed back the end date to the first Sunday in November.
The benign gesture of changing clocks back and forth does have some unanticipated consequences. For instance, the end of DST can alter the birth order of twins born close to 2:00 am when the official time change takes place. As an example, if the first child is born at 1:45 am and the twin is born twenty minutes later, at 2:05 am, he/she would become the firstborn given that, according to the manipulated clock, the official birth time would be recorded as 1:05 am. Conversely, since we magically “lose” an hour when DST starts in spring, there are no babies born between 2:00 am and 3:00 am.
Some experts maintain that time change has an adverse effect on health. However, while there have been some attempts to get DST repealed, lawmakers are reluctant because of the purported negative impact the change could have on businesses. The Golf Alliance of Utah estimates that the extra playtime afforded by the longer days following the start of DST earns the state $24 million! Hence, unless you live in Hawaii, Arizona or the US territories you have no choice but to turn back the time, and enjoy the bonus hour this weekend!