6 Myths About Daylight Saving Time & How It Affects Us

Picture taken on October 29, 2010 in Paris of an alarm clock, as Europe moved to winter time at 0100 GMT on October 31, when clocks move back one hour. Clocks change in North America on November 7. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images

Daylight Saving Time officially ended Nov. 6, at 2 a.m., so hopefully you remembered to set your clocks back an hour (or, more likely considering it's not 1999, just relied on your cell phone to do it for you). This is always a tricky time of year, as everyone is mentally adjusting to the abrupt shift in schedule and the "falling back" of an hour of the day. But, can this annual change affect us and our health? There are a lot of myths floating around out there about Daylight Saving Time, its history, and its impact on those who observe it. What's fact and what's myth?

As we likely all know too well, there are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to daylight savings ending.  On one hand, you've gained an extra (precious) hour of sleep. On the other hand, turning the clocks back an hour means our internal body clocks will feel off for at least a couple of weeks. Not to mention, we'll all be commuting home from work for the next few months in pitch black darkness— not so fun. These faults are what make DST so controversial. Regardless of how you feel about the shift in time though, it's important to understand why daylight saving time occurs and how it works.

1. MYTH: Daylight Savings Time Was Created To Help Farmers

One of the biggest myths about Daylight Savings Time is that it was developed in order to help farmers. The idea is that more daylight allows for more time for farmers to work in their field.  While that might sound logical, the opposite is reportedly true: According to National Geographic, farmers were the only organized group to lobby against DST for years. Why? Many farmers find that their animals, such as cows, have a difficult time adapting to the shift in schedules.

2. MYTH: It Helps Conserve Energy

Proponents of DST have long suggested that Daylight Saving Time is helpful for reducing energy consumption. After all, lighter and sunnier evenings should result in lower use of house lighting and electricity, right? Well... not exactly. While people may use less of certain kinds of energy, like overhead lights, they also use more of others, such as gas and air-conditioning.

Case-in-point? In 2008, a study conducted by The University of California at Santa Barbara showed that DST could actually create a higher demand for energy instead of a lower one. According to the study, Indiana ended up shelling out a whopping $9 million on increased energy after the entire state adopted DST. The researchers suggested that the spike in costs were due to the heightened use of air conditioning in the evenings during DST. 

3. MYTH: Everyone Observes DST

While many states in the U.S. observe DST, there are still some exceptions. To this day, Arizona and Hawaii have opted against adopting daylight savings. And they're not the only ones. While most of North America and Europe observe DST, most of Africa and Asia do not. 

4.  MYTH: It Was Created By Benjamin Franklin

During his time as an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin — known for publishing the old English proverb, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," — penned a letter suggesting that Parisians can economize by rising earlier and using morning sunlight. Many took this to mean that he was the one to come up with the idea for DST. But, in actuality, most publications credit prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett for coming up with DST.

According to the National Maritime Museum, he came up with the idea in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed how many Londoners slept through a large part of a day. A bill was introduced in Parliament, but it didn't become law after Willett died in 1915.

5. MYTH: It's Good For Your Health

In theory, more time in the sunshine and daylight should make us healthier and happier. But, there are plenty of ways in which the shift in time also has a negative impact on us. According to the National Geographic, some research suggests that DST causes an increased risk of heart attack, perhaps due to sleep deprivation and the body's immune responses to the change in time.

A study in 2009 also found that mine workers saw a 5.7 percent increase in injuries in the week after the start of DST, likely due to disruption in the workers’ sleep cycles.

There's no conclusive study on the health effects of DST. However, this research does suggest that the shift in scheduling can negatively impact our sleep patterns and in turn, our bodies.

6.  MYTH: Daylight Saving Time Can Never Be Changed

Just because your state practices DST, that doesn't mean that residents are happy about it. Efforts to get rid of daylight savings have been going on for years. According to CNN, a 2014 poll found that only 33 percent of adults believe that daylight saving time is "worth the hassle." There's even a website — standardtime.com — dedicated to trying to ban it altogether, with a petition boasting more than 128,000 signatures. While these efforts have not resulted in change yet, there's always a possibility that it can — especially since the the federal government doesn't require states or territories to observe DST.

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