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Here is some good news for the thousands of North Americans affected by this year's harsh winter - March 20, 2019 is the first day of spring! In anticipation of the season's start, on March 10, 2019, most residents will “spring forward” by moving their clocks an hour ahead. Though the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) entails sacrificing sixty minutes of precious sleep or play time on Sunday, it allows for longer spring and summer days.
The history of DST can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, who suggested it in a 1784 letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris as a way to save candles. While the American inventor was not serious, New Zealand entomologist George Hudson's 1895 unsuccessful plea to move the clocks by two hours in spring, to have more daylight to study bugs, was very sincere. In 1907, British resident William Willett proposed time change to save energy. Unfortunately, his idea fell on deaf ears as well.
It was only after Germany implemented DST on April 30, 1916, to conserve fuel needed to produce weapons and bombs during World War I, that Britain and America adopted the custom. However, the time change was so unpopular, especially among American dairy farmers, that US lawmakers revoked it as soon as the war ended. In 1942, during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt reinstated DST by signing the "War Time" bill. Though the law was repealed just four weeks after the war ended on Sept. 2, 1945, individual states were allowed to continue the tradition. However, since there was no federal law in place, cities and towns chose their own DST start and stop dates.
The lack of consistency resulted in what Time Magazine referred to in 1963 as “a chaos of clocks." The state of Iowa boasted 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates, while bus passengers on the 35-mile journey between Steubenville, Ohio to Moundsville, West Virginia passed through seven time zones during their 40-minute ride. To resolve this widespread confusion, which was particularly disruptive for the transport and broadcast industry, the US Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966.
The law stipulated that states should start DST on the last Sunday in April and end it on the last Sunday of October. However, since the legislation was not binding, Hawaii, the US territories –American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands – and most cities in Arizona opted out of the annual ritual.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan advanced the start date of DST to the first weekend of April. Nineteen years later, in 2005, President George W. Bush not only moved up the “spring forward” date to the second Sunday in March, but also extended the “fall back” time by a week - from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November.
Though DST has been a fixture on the American calendar for 53 years, many residents still do not like the idea of manipulating the clocks. They believe DST causes sleep deprivation, leading to a loss in productivity and more traffic and workplace accidents. Additionally, a 2012 study by Christopher Barnes, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, revealed a 10% increase in heart attacks in the two days following the start of DST. More recently, Finland’s Dr. Jori Ruuskanen found that the overall number of strokes also increased by 8% during those days. Retailers and businesses, like golf courses and restaurants, are, however, opposed to the idea of abolishing DST, asserting that the longer evenings encourage people to leave their homes and spend money at their establishments. Though there have been several attempts to get rid of DST since 2015, all of them have been rejected by US lawmakers.
Experts say waking up an hour or two earlier on the Friday and Saturday prior to DST's start is the best way to adjust both body and mind to the change. They also recommend basking in the sun for as long as possible on March 10, to allow the body to get accustomed to the longer days that follow. And going to bed an hour earlier on Saturday night will not hurt, either! But before you rush to grab the extra ZZZs, be sure to change your clocks!
Happy Spring Forward!
Resources: wikipedia.org, cnn.com, timeanddate.com