On Sunday, November 3, 2019, most North Americans will mark the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) by moving their clocks back an hour. This simple action will not only add an extra 60 minutes to their weekend, but also shift daylight back into the morning hours, making it a little less painful to wake up for school and work during the shorter winter days.
Manipulating the clocks was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. However, the famous polymath, who proposed it as a way to save candles in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, was not serious about making the change. But New Zealand entomologist George Hudson was earnest when he recommended moving the clocks back two hours in 1895 to get extra daylight time to study insects. Unfortunately, neither he nor British resident William Willett, who suggested it in 1907 as a way to save electricity costs, got their wish.
It was the German Empire that began the clock tinkering tradition on April 30, 1916, to conserve fuel needed to produce weapons and bombs for World War I. Though a few others, including the US and Britain, adopted the tradition shortly after, all the countries reverted to Standard Time once the war ended, only to reinstate DST during World War II. Once the battle ended in 1945, the US government repealed DST nationally but allowed states and districts to continue the tradition and even allowed them to establish their own start and stop dates.
This caused what Time Magazine referred to as a “chaos of clocks.” By 1965, Iowa boasted 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates. St. Paul, MN, began daylight saving two weeks earlier than its twin city Minneapolis, MN, just 9 miles away. Meanwhile, passengers on a 35-mile bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passed through seven time changes!
The US Congress ended the confusion in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act, which mandated 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 Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands — decided not to adopt DST.
The DST dates, initially set for the last Sundays in April and October, have been changed several times. In 1986, US president Ronald Reagan moved the DST start date to the first Sunday in April. A few decades later, President 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 extended the "Fall Back" date to the first Sunday in November.
Though the disruption in sleep patterns caused by the time change is just a source of irritation for most people, it can have a more severe impact on the elderly or those with serious illnesses. Studies conducted by Michigan and Swedish scientists noticed a small increase in heart attacks on the “Spring Forward” Sunday when we “lose” an hour. Other researchers have found that the time change increases driving and workplace accidents.
However, though there have been numerous attempts to convince lawmakers to abolish DST, both in the US and Europe, they have thus far been unsuccessful. 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! Health experts suggest the best way to adjust is going to bed at your regular time, even if the day is an hour longer. They also recommend exercising, so be sure to use Sunday's bonus time for a fun outdoor activity, like biking, running, or hiking.