It is time to stay sprung forward

Daylight Savings Time(DST) has long been an issue of scrutiny for its outdatedness. Both expensive and the cause of health problems, DST needs to be abolished.

Photo courtesy of Ivana Cajina via Unsplash

Daylight Savings Time(DST) has long been an issue of scrutiny for its outdatedness. Both expensive and the cause of health problems, DST needs to be abolished.

By Ha-Yeon Jeon, Opinions Editor

$434 million each year. What is the U.S. spending this money on? Expanding the reach of education to under-resourced districts? Investing in improvements to nationwide infrastructure? Developing green public transportation? None of the above: every year, this $434 million is spent on changing clocks across the country for Daylight Saving Time (DST).

DST begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of Nov., in order to extend daylight hours during the day in the summer months. The “spring forward” sets clocks forward by one hour in the spring, and the “fall back” in the autumn sets clocks back by one hour to return to standard time. Although this has been in practice for over a century, when taking into consideration the downfalls of changing the clocks every year, it is clear that we need to stop implementing DST.

The historical reason behind DST was to save energy. In the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that this practice reduced national electricity usage by approximately one percent compared to standard time. However, both technologies and lifestyles have changed since then. Moreover, research has found that although household lighting may become less in-demand, there is an increased need for cooling on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. Simply put, this is now an outdated rationalization.

There are also negative health effects associated with DST. Bluntly, the impact of losing an hour of sleep cannot be ignored. This single hour disrupts sleep patterns and messes up circadian rhythms, which can result in negative effects to sleep that can last longer than the one morning. 

Furthermore, although this may only be a brief inconvenience for most people, the health consequences can be more severe for others. According to American Heart Association News, a Finnish study found that the risk of having a stroke goes up eight percent during the first two after the beginning of DST. A U.S. study also found that the heart attack risk jumped 24 percent the Monday after the switch. 

Although there is no conclusion about their exact causes, researchers noted that pre-existing risk factors would have been exacerbated by the disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to the entire body being thrown off balance. When many studies consistently show the adverse health effects of DST, it is time to truly reevaluate why the ineffective and dangerous practice is still in place.

One of the main reasons the Department of Transportation, which is in charge of DST, puts forth is that having lighter evenings prevents traffic accidents. However, statistics suggest that the opposite is true on the morning of the transition. Because of the lack of morning light, which suppresses the brain’s release of melatonin, the “sleep hormone”, drivers are both less alert and suffering from the damaging effects of sleep loss. The evening benefit should not be considered without equal consideration for the morning harm. 

Furthermore, since DST has taken effect in 2022, WCHS students have reported struggling with the changes in sleep schedules and darker mornings. Not feeling fully awake for the earlier periods and dozing off during class will only continue to affect classroom environments. When the lack of sleep hurts the quality of learning students are able to get as well, it is even clearer that the harms of DST far outweigh the questionable benefits. 

Instead of this extremely questionable yearly change, the U.S, should use a year-round standard time. The European Union has already announced its recommendation that its member states get rid of DST, with polls showing that more than 80% of EU citizens wanted this change, and American surveys have shown much the same results.

Standard time has been shown to be a healthier option for Americans because it promotes more and better-quality sleep. The arguments for year-round DST, another proposed option, boils down to economic interests. Between these two alternatives to the “spring forward, fall back” approach, which almost everyone acknowledges to be abolished, which one should policymakers choose? When put to the question, the American government needs to be putting health over money.