North Americans will move their clocks forward by an hour on March 14, 2021 (Credit: Mike Licht/CC-By-SA-2.0/Flickr)

On March 14, 2021, millions of Americans and Canadians will mark the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) by moving their clocks forward an hour. The time manipulation — which will result in the loss of sixty minutes of precious sleep or leisure time on Sunday — is designed to enable North Americans to enjoy longer days during the upcoming spring and summer months.

Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest resetting clocks as a way to save candles in a 1784 letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris. However, the American inventor was not serious. But, New Zealand entomologist George Hudson's plea to change the clocks by two hours in 1895, to get more daylight to study insects, was completely genuine. So was British resident William Willett's 1907 proposal to change the clocks to save energy. Both requests fell on deaf ears.

Germany became the first country to adopt DST in 1916. The officials hoped that the extra daylight hour would help save precious fuel needed to produce weapons and bombs during World War 1. While Britain and America adopted the custom soon after, the ritual proved unpopular, especially with American dairy farmers, forcing US lawmakers to stop the clock manipulation once the war ended on November 11, 1918. President Franklin Roosevelt's "War Time" bill reinstated DST during World War II in 1942. Though the law was revoked four weeks after the war ended on September 2, 1945, cities and towns were allowed to continue the tradition and even select their own DST start and stop dates.

The United States first implemented DST during World War 1 (Credit: Library of Congress/ Public Domain)

The free-for-all system resulted in complete mayhem, with the state of Iowa alone boasting 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 resolved the issue by stipulating that DST should begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October. Since the law was not mandatory, Hawaii, the US territories — American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands — and most cities in Arizona chose to opt-out and maintain standard time all year.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan brought forward the DST start date by three weeks to the first Sunday in April. 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.

While some countries have abandoned DST, the practice continues across North America (Credit:

Though the dates vary, DST is observed in varying degrees in about 70 countries worldwide. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not change their clocks. Despite its widespread use, the ritual is mired in controversy. Many people maintain that the impact of the hour's loss lingers for days and causes sleep deprivation and fatigue, leading to a drop in productivity and more traffic and workplace accidents. DST has also been linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to get rid of DST in states across the US. However, most have been rejected by the legislators. Other countries have had more success. In 2019, after a poll revealed that a majority of residents were against time change, the European parliament voted in favor of removing DST permanently. By 2022, all 28 EU member countries will have to determine whether to remain on "summer time" (DST) forever, or to change their clocks one final time to "winter," or standard time.

Expert advice on how to minimize DST's impact (Credit: Tempur Sealy International, Inc.)

For those stuck with DST, here are some tips. Wake up an hour or two earlier on the Friday and Saturday before DST begins to adjust both body and mind to the change. If the weather permits, bask in the sun for a few hours on March 13 to allow your body to get accustomed to the longer days that will follow, and go to bed an hour earlier on Saturday night. But before rushing to grab the extra Z's, be sure to change the clocks!

Happy "Spring Forward!"