SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A decade ago the obituary of a “ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler” named Harry Weathersby Stamps went viral because of the Gulf Coast Community College professor’s disgust for Daylight Saving Time.
“He particularly hated Daylight Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time,” Stamps’ obituary announced to the world just after he died in 2013. “It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.”
In the obituary, Stamps’ family asked for others to write congressmen and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time because, and I quote, “Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.”
A decade later, Stamps’ obituary was (and still is) hysterical because his thoughts mirror those of millions of Americans who also hate to spring forward and fall back.
What’s the point of Day Light Saving Time?
The creation of Daylight Saving Time officially began during WWI in Germany, where the need to conserve fuel was a part of the war effort.
By 1918, legislation made Day Light Savings Time a part of the American lifestyle. The act (An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States) also established standardized time zones across the country.
The thought was that by springing clocks forward by an hour, beginning on Mar. 31, 1918, the extra daylight hours would prevent Americans from spending as much on forms of fuel used for lighting.
The idea of preserving daylight took off like a skinny cat after a fat mouse.
A common rumor began circulating across the nation: Day Light Saving Time was created so American farmers would have more daylight. But the problem with the rumor is that it wasn’t, and isn’t, true. Funny fact about that rumor: in 1918, the agricultural industry actually argued against the idea of messing with daylight hours.
(It’s important to note that changing the time on a clock, or even changing every clock in a nation, does not actually add or take away from time itself. Nor do the number of daylight hours change when the time on clocks is manipulated.)
Who actually started Day Light Saving Time?
While it officially started during WWI in Germany, where the need to conserve fuel was a part of the war effort.
Germany wasn’t the first country to consider using the sunshine found during daylight hours to save energy usually used for lighting–Benjamin Franklin wrote to the people of France about how the extreme waste of candles was caused by the French staying up late at night and then sleeping in until noon.
Oh, and by the way–Benjamin Franklin (and many of our founding fathers) was fluent in many languages. Franklin’s fluencies included English, French, Italian, and sarcasm.
“Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his (the sun’s) rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he (the sun) gives light as soon as he rises,” wrote Franklin in Journal de Paris. “I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Scoot on along through history until we arrive at the Second World War, the delightful era where humanity invented bombs that could accidentally kill all of us in order to stop a war that would have killed some of us.
So there we were, in Feb. 1942, changing daylight again. There was no federal law forcing Day Light Saving Time, so each of the states had the right to choose whether they participated or not.
Telling time was more confusing than your great-uncle’s sideways toupe.
TV and radio stations had difficulties with viewers suddenly living in different time zones even though they were mere miles apart. Transportation companies had to factor in different versions of the exact same time to estimate the arrivals of deliveries.
In some states, there were multiple time zones.
Then came Lyndon B. Johnson and a new law: Daylight Saving Time would begin on the last Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday of October.
That was it–everything was settled.
And about the time everyone got used to the thing, President Nixon signed a new act into law. Daylight Saving Time would set clocks ahead on Oct. 27 and let an hour “fall back” on Feb. 23.
Then in 1986, Daylight Saving Time was moved again–this time to begin at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.
By 2007, Daylight Saving Time in the United States changed to 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of Mar. and 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.
And though there are countless intricacies that deal with law-related facts about time zones and Daylight Saving Time, it’s a little more fun to think about a famous quote, not attributed to anybody in particular, that states you can’t cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.
Is Day Light Saving Time harmful to human health?
Almost all Americans alive today were born into a system of timekeeping that makes zero sense to our conscious minds and actually harms our circadian rhythms. Oftentimes, we humans simply do not question the rationale behind systems that have been in place for generations.
But Daylight savings time shifts the relationship humans have between solar, circadian, and clock time. It is causing harm. There is evidence that the human body does not adjust to daylight saving time even after several months, resulting in a discrepancy between human biological clocks (yes that’s a real thing) and the environmental clock. This misalignment leads to something called social jet lag, which is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
And depending on where you live, Day Light Saving Time may take a worse toll on you. Westernmost areas in the United States, for instance, experience sunset at a later clock time. Daylight Saving Time requires humans to wake up when it is still dark outside during the winter.
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the light/dark cycle is key to our circadian rhythms—without a natural cycle of light and darkness in our lives, we humans experience “acute personal disruptions” and “significant public health and safety risks.”
Should we stop Daylight Saving Time?
The European Biological Rhythms Society, the European Sleep Research Society, and the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms all co-published a statement that declares permanent standard time (and not permanent daylight saving time) is the best option for public health.
Eliminating and not making daylight saving time permanent will actually stop the misalignment between biological clocks and manmade clocks. A permanent change to standard time will help re-regulate our circadian rhythms and connect them to the time we have set on our physical clocks.
But a permanent change to Daylight Saving Time does not align with our circadian rhythms and has many disadvantages.
Mental health is affected negatively by Day Light Saving Time, but by experiencing the fullness of wintertime Americans will stop feeling social jetlag and our bodies will function better both physically and mentally.
Ending Daylight Saving Time is better for human hearts and improves sleep. According to the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, ending Daylight Saving Time and moving to a permanent standard time will reduce incidences of cancer, increase life expectancy at birth, reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption, and improve mental health and both work and school performance.
Day Light Saving Time was enacted to save energy, but it might actually do the opposite. Lighting was the major consumer of energy during WWI, but now lighting accounts for a tiny percent of our overall energy consumption. In the early 1900s many concepts like the air conditioning had yet to be invented.
The Advantages of Daylight Saving Time
Not all studies are doom and gloom when it comes to humans and Daylight Saving Time. One study found using Day Light Saving Time lowers rates of robberies. Rates of police solving crimes increased after the implementation of daylight saving time, too.
And people who want to jog, walk, or otherwise play outside after work and school may actually be safer because they’re doing so in daylight hours. The risk of pedestrians being hit by cars lowers, and car accident rates in general lower, too.
Some industries benefit because of Daylight Saving Time. Golfing and barbeque industries, for example, estimate their profit increase by hundreds of millions of dollars because of DST. And many chambers of commerce insist that DST increases profit margins.
Modern-era Day Light Saving Time Legislation
Remember the obituary of Harry Stamps that we began with in this article? Well, Stamps’ dream for legislators to repeal Day Light Saving Time almost came true in 2022.
It happened on a random Tuesday, the exact time of day ironically uncertain, when the United States Senate passed legislation that could potentially make daylight saving time permanent starting in 2022, which would have ended the changing of clocks twice a year.
But the legislation would cause Daylight Saving Time to be permanent–as in we would spring forward and never fall back again. We would still need to wake up in darkness during winter instead of rising with the sun, as our biological systems are designed to do naturally.
In 2022, when the U.S. Senate was exploring the options concerning Daylight Saving Time, Senator Marco Rubio said input was needed from airlines and broadcasters before the country begins sticking to a permanent Daylight Saving Time.
The airline industry and the media fight to avoid costly schedule changes.
But understanding the truth about daylight saving time requires a comprehension of our planet’s rotation. It requires an appreciation for the natural world and the biological rhythms associated with it.
Fact: the disturbance of circadian rhythms is a direct cause of physical and mental disorders in humans.
Fact: in the United States we humans are guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Our circadian rhythms are a big deal. When they’re disrupted, humans have great difficulty making decisions, remembering things, and we become depressed–and those aren’t the only serious problems we develop because of circadian rhythm disorders.
Will we fall back again this year?
For now, clocks will fall back an hour on Sunday, Nov. 5. Legislation has not canceled or made permanent Day Light Saving Time yet.
We’re still cutting off the top of that blanket and sewing it back to the bottom of itself.
But there are a couple of things that you can do about this issue.
KTAL’s Stephanie Lepretre says she has difficulty waking up when it’s dark outside, so she splurged on lightbulbs that work like alarm clocks. Just program your light bulbs, and they’ll help wake you up on cold, dark winter mornings.
It’s also important to remember that you have the ability to contact your local legislator to ask for our circadian rhythms to be reset with the writing and enacting of a new law that makes Standard Time permanent.
If for no other reason, do it in memory of Harry Weathersby Stamps.
Click here to find your representative.