You know what they say about March: In like a lion, out like a lamb. After the harsh winter (I'm lookin' at you, polar vortex) that much of the U.S. has endured this season, it's safe to assume that most people are looking forward to spring. A glimmer of hope for warmer weather starts this weekend, as most states will turn their clocks ahead one hour on March 9 in observance of 2014's daylight saving time.
Not everyone is too happy to spring forward on Sunday at 2 a.m., however. Opponents of daylight saving time says it is an outdated, unnecessary process that makes us sluggish and may even add to our air-conditioning bills. But proponents argue that an extra hour of sunlight is good for the economy and encourages people to be more active. (That, of course, will briefly cease when people start binge-watching Orange is the New Black's second season on June 9. Just an FYI.)
There's a lot more to daylight saving time than you may think. Let's explore some of the most popular debates surrounding the time change.
Daylight Saving Time Might Not Actually Save Energy
Thanks a lot, Ben Franklin. One of the earliest ideas for daylight saving time can be traced back to the U.S.'s constantly tinkering Founding Father. When Franklin was living in Paris as U.S. Ambassador to France, he realized that he was waking up way after sunrise and that a ton of candle wax could be saved if people simply woke up and went to sleep with the sun. He jokingly wrote a letter saying that church bells and cannons should be fired to wake people up. (I would curse you so much if you ever did that to me, Franklin.) His ideas were thankfully never put into practice, but they arguably set the precedent for the modern-day argument for daylight saving time, which began to be implemented in Europe in 1916.
Daylight saving time was extended for a longer time during World War II and the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, to conserve energy. But there's evidence that modern-day energy practices are actually worse when daylight saving time kicks in. Even though Northern states and temperate ones like California might benefit from an extra hour of outdoor time, it forces people in Southern states to crank up the air conditioning in their homes during sweltering days. And a study in Australia shows that energy used during dark mornings offsets any potential savings during the lighter evenings.
It Probably Messes Up Your Circadian Rhythm
Feel a little off the week clocks change? Spring's daylight saving time is simply messing with your brain. Since your body clock is used to reseting after a full 24 hours, the 23-hour Sunday will probably make you feel a bit sleepier — and grumpier — on Monday. Some tips to avoid the Monday morning blues? Get plenty of sunlight in the early hours, go to bed early on Sunday, and take a tiny dose of melatonin (after consulting a pharmacist).
But others suggest that since Western nations are so used to "social jet lag" — constant tiredness, presumably due to electricity adoption and our constant dependance on tiny yet bright smartphone screens — our natural circadian rhythms are too far gone to save anyway.
"The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired," says German chronobiologist Till Roenneberg.
The days after daylight saving time have been linked to a greater number of car crashes, heart attacks, fatal alcohol accidents — not to mention an increase in non work-related online browsing at work (but there are so many cat gifs I haven't seen!). In fact, Sleepy's once took a poll asking people if they'd rather daylight saving time to start on Saturday, giving them a chance to adjust slightly better before starting the work week on Monday. Seventy percent of responders agreed. Sounds like a good idea!
Some Places Don't Even Observe Daylight Saving Time
There's no law in the United States that explicitly mandates states observe daylight saving time. Arizona and Hawaii don't practice daylight saving time, saying eff it, let's do what we want because it's too damn hot. U.S. Territories like American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands also nixed it.
It's estimated that state legislatures see at least 10 to 30 proposals per year advocating for a full-time change to daylight saving time or a ban on the practice. In Tennessee, there's currently a proposal to be on permanent daylight saving time, whereas Kentucky has one circulating that would make the state adhere to permanent standard time.
"That would mean — and this is ridiculous but true — cities in Tennessee's eastern time zone and Kentucky's central time zone that are only 5 or 10 miles apart would have two-hour time differences," says Tufts University professor Michael Downing.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan repealed daylight saving time altogether in 2005, and Russia followed suit in 2011. While then-President Dmitry Medvedev said the abolishment of daylight saving time and a year-round "summer time" would lower electricity usage and make people less stressed out, some groups have petitioned against the law, saying it has actually negatively affected Russians' health. When the International Olympic Committee tried to get Russia to change back their clocks for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Russia basically laughed and said no way. In Russia, time tells you.
Organizations Have Been Lobbying Against It For Forever
There are a ton of groups who really hate daylight saving time.
Parents oppose it because it messes with their antsy kids' bedtimes, making them think they can stay up later. There's even a group called Mothers Against Daylight Savings Time.
Farmers don't like daylight saving time because it screws up their cows' milking schedules.
Some religious organizations want to change daylight saving time because they say it's "fooling around with God's time."
Standard Time activists want to have two American time zones instead of four. There's currently an online petition to end daylight savings making the rounds. And over in the U.K., the group Lighter Later seeks to add two more hours to standard time.
This debate may last for a long time.