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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Opinion

Reign of daylight saving time may soon come to an end


At 2 a.m. on Nov. 2, daylight saving time will end for the year, and people across the country will shift their clocks back one hour to standard time, gaining a much-welcomed extra hour.

Chemical engineering junior Elijah Hankins said he thinks many college students like himself appreciate the extra hour to catch up on lost sleep.

“(With) an hour back, I feel like there’s like more sleep time,” Hankins said. “I think college kids … are kind of sleep-deprived if you’re involved with stuff and trying to keep up with school, so if there’s more sleep time, it really helps you out.”

However, this shift can also cause a lot of confusion and disruption, leading to increased dissatisfaction with the practice of daylight saving time.

An annual survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that this year only 33 percent of American adults think changing the clocks for daylight saving time is worth the hassle. 48 percent do not think it is worth the effort, and 19 percent are not sure.

Besides the simple aggravation of shifting the clocks and adjusting to the schedule changes, the shift can lead to drowsiness and resulting health problems when clocks go forward an hour in the spring and people lose an hour of vital sleep.

Reuters reported that, likely owing to sleep deprivation and disruption of biological rhythms, a study found that the risk of heart attack increases by 25 percent on the Monday immediately following the clock change.

Even after the initial sudden disruption, health problems can accumulate throughout daylight saving time. Daylight saving time takes the extra daylight gained by earlier sunrises and later sunsets in the summer away from the mornings and adds it to the evenings.

Though this allows for more outdoor activities in the evenings, Tim Roenneburg — who is a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany — told National Geographic that the natural light in the mornings is just as crucial to maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm. The unnaturally late sunsets caused by daylight saving time delay sleeping schedules and leave the body out of sync with optimal circadian sleep periods.

“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,” Roenneburg said.

In addition to the negative impact on health, several groups have long opposed changing the clocks, including a number of religions that follow the sunrise and sunset for prayer or fasting times regardless of the time of day and object to the disturbance of religious practices.

Parents of school-aged children have also expressed concerns about the late sunrises causing children to be out in dark streets waiting for the school bus or walking to school in the morning. Parents were especially worried after 2008’s extension of daylight saving time by one month cut even further into the school year.

Many members of the agriculture industry, especially dairy farmers, also complain about daylight saving time because the farm animals cannot easily adjust to the sudden schedule change. Farm hands also arrive an hour later, delaying farm work such as grain harvesting that needs to be done immediately at sunrise.

Despite this, it has become a common misconception among Americans that daylight saving time was introduced to help farmers. Farming lobbyist groups were the loudest voice of dissent when daylight saving time was first instituted during World War I year-round in an effort to reduce energy costs by using natural light rather than artificial light in the evenings.

Opposition from farmers led to the practice being repealed shortly after the war, but it was brought back during World War II. After the end of that war, most states continued having daylight saving time during the summer months.

Recent research has found even if it may have worked originally, nowadays daylight saving time no longer accomplishes its primary purpose of conserving energy. Even though more natural daylight in the evening reduces indoor lighting costs, it also makes it warmer, leading to increased air conditioning costs, which actually uses more energy that lighting. This added electricity consumption not just cancels out but also entirely outweighs any benefits of daylight saving time.

Fortunately, many governments have proposed a return to yearlong standard time. This year, Russia got rid of daylight saving time.

According to the Washington Post, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are considering joining the two other states, Arizona and Hawaii, which do not utilize the practice.

With all the opposition to daylight saving time and evidence that not only is it ineffective in its original goal but also has negative effects on health, it is only a matter of time before other regions follow suit.

Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected] 

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