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Daylight Saving Time: Are We Saving Time or Just Losing Sleep?



RWC tutor Emily Rawlings shares a story about Daylight Saving Time, as well as its history.


Paula groggily swings her legs off the side of her bed in response to her repetitive alarm. She has a pounding headache and a heart yearning for the warmth and comfort of her bed. Her husband groans beside her and turns in response to the lamp light flicking on. He squints both due to the blinding light and sleepy confusion. “What are you doing?” he asks.


Getting up,” Paula responds, not having the energy or will to conversate at this perplexing morning hour. Paula’s husband falls back into his pillows, neither having the energy, will, or further interest in staying awake any longer to pursue an unsatisfying conversation with his wife who was clearly in no mood

to do anything. The morning of spring daylight saving time can be the most life-sapping day of the entire year, but it does have a purpose.


Despite how uncomfortable it is for one’s energy to be sapped by daylight saving time, it was designed for this purpose. To give some background, time zones were set in place to make sure trains do not crash due to differing ways in keeping time in the late 1800s, thus putting the railroads in charge of the time zones in 1918 when official time zones were set in The Standard Time Act of 1918. In this same act, daylight saving time was put into practice during World War I to help the soldiers conserve fuel and power. The idea was that shifting time to get more daylight hours would reduce the need for lighting. Over the years, the specificities of the standard time zones and daylight savings have been ironed out by the government and by the Department of Transportation, yet the aims of daylight saving time has essentially remained the same: conserve and reduce the use of energy and elongate summer days. However, these aims come at a cost to the individual.


Beyond the wholistic positive effects of decreased energy usage and more time in the summer, daylight savings has some serious negative effects on the individual level. Although Paula is immensely aware of her lack of sleep and how difficult it will be to get through her day, there are even more consequential outcomes of daylight savings. For example, scientific evidence points to acute increases in adverse health consequences from changing the clocks, including in heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, there are more admissions to hospitals; increased potential for mood disturbances; more stress, causing raised levels of inflammatory markers; and more seriously, there are increased car crashes, elevating the numbers of related deathly accidents by six percent. Consequently, daylight savings can be annoying, and even deadly, to the individual all while having the positive wholistic energy-reducing effects.


Although a lot of energy is saved nationally due to daylight saving time, leading to less light pollution, less energy consumption, and more time on lovely summer evenings, the effect on an individual level seems especially dire. So, are you on Paula’s side, wishing that daylight saving time does not exist due to how much it affects the individual, or do you favor the wholistic view, believing that this is a worthy cost to pay for the decrease of light pollution, lessened energy consumption, and the consequential glowing sun we have in summer evenings?

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