The History Of Daylight Saving Time, aka How You Lost And Then Gained An Hour Extra Sleep (And How To Stop That From Hurting You)

A picture taken on July 24, 2012 shows the sunset from Arue, a district of Papeete, French Polynesia. AFP PHOTO / GREGORY BOISSY (Photo credit should read GREGORY BOISSY/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: GREGORY BOISSY/AFP/Getty Images

Soon, oh so deliciously soon, we'll all be freed from the yoke of Daylight Saving Time for the rest of the year. It ends on the morning of November 1st, which means you'll finally get to cash in that sweet extra hour you had to give up back in March — when your clock hits 2 a.m. (assuming it's not automated), just pull it back an hour to 1 a.m. Ever wonder why we do things this way, though? Here's a brief history of Daylight Saving Time.

Anything that can have a major impact on our sleeping and waking schedules is something worth understanding, because there's an increasing wealth of research suggesting the simple one-hour shift each year can bring a host of health and safety risks. Whether it's by way of alertness-related accidents, or stresses on the human body, messing with your body's time-tested sleep rhythms is no small thing.

And different countries around the world have been turning to Daylight Saving Time for nearly a century. While it's true that some ancient civilizations have employed similar time-shifts based around the sun, the first countries to implement DST as codified policy in the 20th century were Germany and Austria-Hungary, back in 1916, during the thick of World War I. And as The History Channel details, it took mere weeks for Britain to do the same, implementing so-called "summer time" and nudging their clocks ahead by an hour. 

It wasn't implemented in the United States until two years later, in 1918, the result of the Standard Time Act. At present, it's in effect almost everywhere in the continental United States — Hawaii and Arizona are the only states that don't observe DST.

It wasn't always intended to be a one-hour leap forward, as it happens — the Englishman who prominently championed DST in the run-up to 1916, William Willett, originally proposed pushing the clocks back a total of 80 minutes, spreading the shift out in 20-minute chunks. The way that's been settled on nowadays, rather, is to get the whole hour over with at once, which is a quicker and easier route, but one that can be very disruptive to human rest.

And, needless to say, human rest is pretty important. The measurable increase in the likelihood of heart attacks in the immediate aftermath of DST's annual start date is more than enough on its own to remind us just how vital getting uninterrupted, full, and consistent rest is. If you're looking for some useful information on the science of sleep and how to improve your habits, the above infographic (courtesy of Happify) is a solid place to start.

Image: Courtesy of Happify

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