Daylight saving time is a hot button issue. In Europe, nations involved in the European Union are considering ending the practice altogether, but the possible end of this time-honored practice requires difficult decisions about when to end it and what time to stick to. In America, all states have the option to stop practicing daylight saving, but, so far, Arizona and Hawaii are the only states to make the move. The end of daylight saving time is being considered in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, and Nebraska. With all of this pushback, is daylight saving time going the way of the dinosaur?

Why does daylight saving time exist?

In America, daylight saving time is a tool to allow more hours of daylight to happen during the times that most people are awake in the spring and summer months when there are more hours of sunlight in a 24-hour period. The history of daylight saving time is rather complicated in America. Many have the misconception that daylight saving time was invented for farmers. Although farmers (and anyone who works outdoors) benefit from longer periods of sunlight, the first of three iterations of American daylight saving time was actually started because of World War I. During the war, natural and human resources were scarce, and daylight saving time was adopted in 1918 so that the smaller workforce could spend more of the longer daylight hours working. This saved on coal, which would have previously been used to light businesses in the darker evening hours. At this point, time only changed during the summer.

In World War II, the “fall back” time shift was implemented in the second version of daylight saving time. This version of daylight saving time was only the legal standard during the war, so after the war some states kept it and others did not. To end all of the confusion with neighboring states having different times, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was adopted, and that federal law created the third version of daylight saving time which is still used today.

At 2:00 AM on the final Sunday of November, American clocks fall back an hour, and at the same time on the second Sunday in March, the clocks spring forward an hour. The history of daylight saving time is admittedly confusing, and citizens and lawmaker in several states are clamoring to make the practice “fall back” into the history books.

The economic impact

What would happen if all of the daylight saving detractors got their way? Many business owners shudder at the thought. Money has always been one of the main reasons for keeping daylight saving time around. In America, the most common work schedule is Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. People are already tired after work, and if it is dark outside too, they are more likely to go home. Sunlight is a natural mood booster. When there are several hours of daylight in the evening after the workday, people are more likely to squeeze a little shopping or recreation into their weekdays.

On the weekends, people also have more time to spend outside. During the spring and summer months, people go to sporting events, do yard work, spend money in restaurants and movie theaters, shop more, and throw more parties. Road trips are also more common at this time of year. This gives a big boost to all sectors of the consumer economy.  

The golf industry has long been one of the biggest proponents of daylight saving time. Although only one percent of respondents in a 2017 Gallup poll listed golf as their favorite sport, golf has an economic reach far greater than its popularity. Far more people, even those who are not golf spectators, play golf recreationally than do fans of more popular sports. Golf courses take up acres of land and require a lot of work to be kept in a pristine condition. Caddys, golf cart operators, kitchen staff, waitstaff, and a team of landscapers are just a few members of the large workforce required to keep a golf course running. There are college degrees dedicated to the topic of golf course management. Statistically, daylight saving time causes an uptick in traffic at golf courses. Between the impact of local courses as well as the professional events, the sport of golf makes a multimillion-dollar contribution to the American economy.

The human impact

Although daylight saving time is clearly a shot in the arm for the economy, it’s like a dose of poison when it comes to human health. The most particularly dangerous element of daylight saving time lies in the fact that the entire population loses an hour of sleep every spring. It also jars a human’s circadian rhythm. Studies in American and Sweden have shown that the rate of strokes increases dramatically on the day that clocks spring forward. Five days after this annual event, the incidence of stroke drops back to normal. The risk of stroke immediately following daylight saving time is higher for patients who are already part of other at-risk populations. Rates of heart attack also increase at this time of year, and car accidents and injuries go up as well.

What to do

Daylight saving time is seen as less important today than it used to be, but it is not going away quickly. In the meantime, people can protect their health by making sure to plan for an extra hour of sleep when daylight saving time takes it away. Don’t ignore signs of tiredness. Permanently lengthen sleep time if necessary. Cars won’t go the same number of miles on a half-filled gas tank. Don’t tax the body with having the same workload on less sleep.