The Great DST Debate

Are you ready to “spring forward” this weekend?  I am!  I’m not a morning person, and it will be nice to actually enjoy some daylight when I get home from work.  However, in both spring and fall we see in the media and online a debate about whether to do away with Daylight Saving Time, stay on Standard Time, or switch to some other plan altogether.

The modern idea of daylight saving was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, and it was first implemented by Germany and Austria-Hungary starting on April 30, 1916.  Many countries have used it at various times since then, most notably during World War II and during the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Daylight Saving Time was originally introduced to reduce the need for incandescent lighting and save electricity during the summer months.  However, with modern, energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning, the need to save electricity and be outdoors during the summer months isn’t as big of a concern today.

While the length of daylight hours in the morning and evening increase roughly equally as the year move from winter to summer, proponents of DST have argued that the majority of individuals would appreciate a greater increase in daylight hours after the common nine-to-five work day.  DST is usually not observed in countries near the equator because their daylight lengths only vary by a small amount.

The DST versus Standard Time debate usually centers on energy savings, the disruption caused by the change, and health concerns.  Retailers and other businesses benefit from extra afternoon sunlight.  Conversely, DST can have a negative effect on farmers and others whose hours are set by the sun.  Cows, for example, don’t observe Daylight Saving Time (they can’t read clocks).  Cows are sensitive to the timing of milking, so when their milk needs to be picked up earlier, their systems are disrupted.

Clock shifts disrupt sleep and reduce its efficiency. These effects can be severe and last for weeks.  A 2008 Swedish study found the number of heart attacks increase during the first few days following the spring time shift.  Russian officials cited health concerns when they decided to do away with Daylight Saving Time in 2011.

This week I was curious about what our readers think.  I came up with a simple online survey that I shared via Facebook and Twitter.  85% of those surveyed prefer Daylight Saving Time, 15% prefer both, and 0% prefers just standard time.