For most of us, the habit of turning our clocks forward for one hour every March does little more than inconvenience us for several days. We “lose” an hour of sleep the night we make the change, and then our circadian rhythms balk when the alarm clock goes off and it’s still dark outside, or when we lie in bed trying to relax when our bodies tell us we should be watching the news.
Yet, throughout its tenure, DST has been the source of one of the most longstanding debates in national history. There are those for whom daylight saving time (DST) poses some very real drawbacks, and always has.
Every suburban parent bemoans having to put the kids to bed while it’s still light outside and there are lightning bugs to catch in insect jars and flashlight tag to be played in the waning daylight hours. Remembering our own childhoods, it seems almost criminal to force our children to retire before every ounce of daylight has been wrung from the day.
And there are other, more serious considerations. Farmers do not have the luxury of manipulating their clocks to force the land to recognize their efforts; indeed, the land doesn’t listen. It responds to the sun and the changing seasons only; not to the whims of the leisure industry (which is one of the prime industries that actually benefits economically from the yearly time change). In order to bridge the gap between the land they till and harvest and the world at large, they must rise even earlier, stumbling around in the dark for an extra hour before sunup, even though some harvesting is best done after the dew evaporates.
And farmers aren’t the only ones governed more by the sun than what our clocks actually say. The movie industry’s revenues go down once DST rolls around, as people want to spend as much time outside as they can before the world goes dark every evening.
The time change also interrupts certain medical devices and heavy machinery, as well as travel and billing schedules. And even though most computers and devices are programmed to make the time change automatically (indeed, most of the time I would forget to change the time on my alarm clock if my DVD player didn’t “remind” me by setting itself ahead sixty minutes), there is a margin of error in this regard, especially when the DST rules change, as they did in 2007 in the United States. That year, the US added an extra three weeks of DST by changing the time the second Sunday in March and not changing back to standard time until the first weekend in November.
Most of us however, muddle through with only a modicum of inconvenience and an extra cup of coffee on those mornings that seem to come around in the middle of the night.