When I was younger, the November third shift known as “fall back,” when the country transitions abruptly from daylight saving time (DST) to normal time, was delightful. Now, however, I sleep through the extra hour and hardly notice the difference. But I do notice that for several days afterward I am unpleasantly surprised and confused by the shifted sunset, and I am not alone: this DST disorientation seems to be universally felt to some degree.
Evidence that “falling back” (or “springing forward”) subconsciously and consciously confuses us is not merely anecdotal. Studies show that DST-related disorientation increases the frequency of heart attacks and strokes. More frequent car wrecks and workplace accidents also accompany the spring shift. Our moods are also impacted by the sleep deprivation associated with “springing forward” and the disorientation that accompanies both shifts; depressive feelings and anxiety are exacerbated. For adolescents, these behavioral impacts are amplified by naturally delayed sleep cycles.
Why, then, do we put ourselves through this? DST was first implemented by wartime governments to reduce energy consumption. Now, however, it persists mainly because too many cities and states continued to use DST after WWII. Before DST was implemented nationally in 1966, an insane patchwork of local times bamboozled travelers. The shift to national DST, therefore, was motivated not by the virtue of the policy but by colossal inconvenience.
There are benefits, however, to the forward shift that occurs every March. For a night owl like myself, a 5:00 AM sunrise (which would occur in late June without DST) is useless; I will never wake up early enough to take advantage of the early light. Only crazy people like Mr. Nelson, who frequently wakes up at 4:30 AM to gallivant through the countryside on his bike, would appreciate such early daylight. An extra hour of evening light, however, is tremendous. It allows us to work and play outdoors much later than we otherwise could.
Recognizing both the usefulness of DST and the harms of the biannual shift, some states have passed legislation to make DST permanent. I hope that this change will be effected nationally; it would rid us of the harmful effects of biannual shifts while prolonging the evening daylight year-round, eliminating the depressing 5:00 sunset that plunges us prematurely into darkness each winter. We can enjoy extended daylight and prevent the ill effects of biannual shifts if we make DST permanent. We should do so.