The History of Daylight Saving Time and its Effect on Our Health

Learn the history of Daylight Saving Time (DST) from Benjamin Franklin to its effects on health. Learn coping strategies for the time change and the ongoing debate surrounding DST.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a practice observed by many countries around the world, where clocks are adjusted forward by one hour during the summer months. This adjustment is made to take advantage of the longer daylight hours and to make better use of natural light. The concept of DST has a long and interesting history, with its origins dating back to the late 18th century. In this article, we will explore the history of DST and its effect on our health.

The Origins of Daylight Saving Time

The idea of DST can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, who first proposed the concept in a 1784 essay titled “An Economical Project.” Franklin suggested that adjusting the clocks could save on candle usage and make better use of daylight. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the concept of DST gained more traction.

George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, is often credited with the modern concept of DST. In 1895, Hudson proposed a two-hour time shift to have more after-work hours of sunshine during the summer months for his bug-hunting activities. Although Hudson’s proposal was not implemented, it sparked a renewed interest in the idea of adjusting clocks to make better use of daylight.

Daylight Saving Time during World War I and World War II

The practice of DST gained significant momentum during World War I as a way to conserve energy. By shifting the clocks forward, people could take advantage of natural daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting. This was especially important during the war when resources were scarce.

After World War I, the decision to observe DST was left to individual countries and regions. During World War II, many countries, including the United States, reintroduced DST as a means to conserve energy and support the war effort. It was believed that by extending daylight hours, people would spend less time indoors with the lights on, thereby reducing energy consumption.

Daylight Saving Time Becomes Official

In the United States, DST didn’t become a federal law until 1966, under the Uniform Time Act. This act standardized the start and end dates of DST across the country. However, individual states still had the option to choose whether or not to observe DST.

The main purpose of DST, as stated by the Department of Transportation, is to conserve energy, reduce crime, and prevent traffic injuries. The extended daylight hours encourage people to spend more time outdoors during daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting and potentially reducing energy consumption. Additionally, more people are on the roads during daylight hours, which may contribute to fewer traffic accidents.

The Effects of Daylight Saving Time on Our Health

While DST has its benefits, it also has potential implications for our health. The sudden time shift can disrupt our biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is influenced by external cues, such as light exposure.

With the start of DST, we lose an hour of sleep, which can have various effects on our well-being. Studies have shown that even one night of sleep deprivation can impact our mood, cognitive function, and overall performance. It can also affect our appetite, making us feel hungrier than usual.

The change in daylight exposure can also influence our sleep patterns. With DST, we have more daylight in the evening, which can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, making it harder for us to fall asleep at our normal bedtime. This shift in sleep patterns can lead to sleep disturbances and may contribute to mood changes, irritability, and decreased productivity.

Coping with the Time Change

Adjusting to the time change during DST can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help us cope with the transition. Here are some tips for minimizing the effects of the time change:

  1. Gradually adjust your sleep schedule: In the days leading up to the time change, try going to bed and waking up slightly earlier each day. This gradual adjustment can help your body adapt to the new schedule.
  2. Expose yourself to natural light: Get outside and expose yourself to natural light, especially in the morning. Morning light exposure helps regulate your body’s internal clock and can help you feel more awake and alert.
  3. Create a bedtime routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that promotes relaxation and good sleep hygiene. This can include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques.
  4. Create a sleep-friendly environment: Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out any excess light during the evening hours.
  5. Limit exposure to electronic devices: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt your sleep patterns. Avoid using electronic devices, such as smartphones or tablets, in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  6. Be mindful of your caffeine intake: Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon and evening, as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Opt for decaffeinated beverages or herbal teas instead.
  7. Stick to a regular sleep schedule: Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help regulate your body’s internal clock.

By following these tips, you can minimize the impact of the time change on your sleep and overall well-being.

The Debate Surrounding Daylight Saving Time

Despite the benefits and efforts to conserve energy, DST is not without controversy. Over the years, there have been debates about the necessity and effectiveness of DST. Some argue that the energy savings are minimal, while others question the disruption it causes to our sleep patterns and daily routines.

In recent years, there have been calls to eliminate DST altogether. A proposed bill, the Sunshine Protection Act is a federal law that would make U.S. permanent daylight saving time. It would meaning the time would no longer change twice per year. The bill has been proposed during several sessions. Critics argue that the time change can have negative health effects, including increased risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents, and workplace incidents. They advocate for a permanent standard time, which would eliminate the need for adjusting clocks twice a year.


Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Saving Time has a long and fascinating history, originating from the ideas of Benjamin Franklin and evolving into a global practice. While it aims to conserve energy and make better use of natural daylight, DST also has implications for our health and well-being. The time change can disrupt our sleep patterns and affect our mood, productivity, and overall performance.

As we adjust to the time change during DST, it’s important to prioritize good sleep hygiene and establish healthy sleep routines. By gradually adjusting our sleep schedule, exposing ourselves to natural light, and creating a sleep-friendly environment, we can minimize the impact of the time change on our health and well-being.

While the debate surrounding DST continues, it’s clear that the practice has both advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the decision to observe DST rests with individual countries and regions, taking into consideration the needs and preferences of their populations.