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Is it time to end Daylight Saving Time?

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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 12:00 am

I'm a bit biased on this: My answer has been an emphatic "yes" since high school, despite the "fall back" giving me an extra hour to work on my thesis one busy, busy college weekend.

I don't know about you — maybe this is such a problem for me because I work at night — but messing up my sleep cycle, even by an hour, throws me off for weeks and I find myself struggling to stay awake.

So I decided to see why we even use it anymore. I thought it had been tied to factories and farming back when electric lights were much less common, to save on candles and stuff.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time#Origin">Wikipedia — which is not always the best source, but this article cites its sources — Daylight Saving Time was proposed by an New Zealand entomologist (bug expert) who liked to collect insects after work. Having a few extra hours of daylight made it easier, and he figured the easiest way to get it was to shift the clock a bit.

It's a nice idea — have a little more daylight in the summer months, then have a little less in the winter when we're all cozied up indoors with the lights on and the fires roaring anyway.

But it has problems too, aside from just messing up my circadian rhythm.

For example, it's been stated that DST saves energy; but it doesn't seem to save much in the U.S. (0.5 percent), and can that really be attributed to DST, rather than the fact that most of the spring and autumn fall into DST, and that's when people are least likely to use heaters/air conditioners and most likely to be outside having fun rather than inside in front of the TV or playing video games? One thing drilled into my head in college is that correlation (two things happening at the same time) doesn't equal causation (that one of the things caused the other). Maybe the studies have taken this into account; I'm not sure, since I haven't seen them.

Things that have been shown to be beneficial is that more people play sports if they have more afternoon sunlight, and that "falling back" in the fall raises the likelihood of traffic accidents, especially in the first week.

But several studies have shown health problems with changing the clocks, including one from Sweden that heart attacks are more likely in the first few days after the spring forward.

So if the extra daylight is beneficial and saves energy, and changing the clocks causes health and safety concerns ... why not just keep "spring forward" time all year round? Surely people would benefit from extra afternoon sunlight in the winter, too. In fact, having extra sun while people are awake in the afternoon to enjoy it might even help sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression that is relieved by more exposure to daylight.

Really, I just don't see the point of "falling back" every fall. We've set the clocks forward; let's join Arizona and Hawaii and just get rid of it altogether.

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