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Those of you having a hard time waking up in the increasingly dark mornings will be pleased to hear that Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on Sunday, November 4. This means that most North Americans will “add’’ an hour to their day by moving their clocks back. In addition to allowing people to enjoy an extra 60 minutes on Sunday, the simple act will help provide more daylight hours and make getting up for school a little more palatable.
Manipulating the clocks to enjoy an extra hour of daylight during the summer was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. However, the famous polymath, who proposed it as a way to save candles in a letter he penned to the editor of the Journal of Paris, was not really serious about making the change. The idea did not come up again till 1895, when George Hudson recommended moving clocks back by not one, but two hours. The New Zealand entomologist, however, did not have an altruistic motive – he just wanted the extra daylight hours to study insects! Unfortunately, Hudson did not get his wish, and nor did British resident William Willet who thought of it in 1907 as a way to save electricity costs.
DST finally became a reality in April 1916 when Germany advanced the clocks by an hour to conserve the fuel needed to produce weapons and bombs for World War I. A few other countries, including the US and Britain, followed shortly after. However, all reverted to Standard Time after the war was over, only to reinstate it during World War II. Though national DST was repealed in the US shortly after the war ended in 1945, states and districts were allowed to continue the practice and even decide on the start and stop dates.
What appeared to be a great idea soon turned into what Time Magazine referred to as a “chaos of clocks.” By 1965, the state of Iowa alone had 23 different sets of DST start and end dates. In 1966, the US Congress decided to end the confusion with a Uniform Time Act that established the same “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back” dates for the entire nation. However, since the law was not mandatory, Hawaii, most of Arizona, and the US territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, The Northern Marina Islands, and the US Virgin Islands — decided not to observe DST.
While the initial DST start and end dates were scheduled for the final Sundays in April and October respectively, they have been changed multiple times since. The first adjustment, made by US President Ronald Reagan in 1986, brought forward the start date to the first Sunday in April. A few decades later, George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which, among other things, revised the DST start date to the second Sunday in March and pushed back the end date to the first Sunday in November.
For most of us, DST is a mere inconvenience. As Winston Churchill once succinctly put it : “An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn… We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.” However, the disruption in the sleep-wake cycle, which often lasts for several days, has proved to have dire effects on the elderly or sick. Studies conducted by Michigan and Swedish scientists found a small increase in heart attacks on “Spring Forward” Sunday when we “lose” an hour. Other researchers have found the time change results in an increase in driving and workplace accidents.
It is, therefore, not surprising that people in the US and Europe have been advocating to abolish DST for many years. While lawmakers claim it helps saves energy, experts believe the real reason for their reluctance to make the change is the impact it may have on the economy. The golf industry asserts that an extra month of daylight-saving is worth $200 million, while the BBQ industry estimates it boosts sales by $100 million.
Hence, unless you reside in Hawaii, Arizona, or the US territories, you have little choice but to “Fall Back” and enjoy the bonus hour this weekend! According to health experts, the best way to get adjusted is by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. They also recommend regular exercise, so be sure to make an extra effort to go on a bike ride or walk next week.