Daylight Savings: An Unnecessary Hassle
March 21, 2012
Filed under Opinion
Kyle Bittman has travelled through time, and he isn’t happy about it.
Actually, we all have. On March 11, clocks around the country “sprung forward” one hour – from 1:59 a.m. to 3 a.m. – beginning Daylight Savings Time (DST).
While some stayed in their beds, recuperating their missing hour, most took to the streets like any other day, more bleary-eyed and unaware than usual.
Bittman, a first-year student who works at a 24-hour restaurant and is prone to bizarre work schedules, admits that the switch took a toll on his performance, both on the road and in the workplace.
“[The change] messed up my sleep schedule, I haven’t really been the same since,” he said.
And Bittman isn’t the only one behind on his beauty-sleep.
A 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the amount of fatal car crashes significantly increases the week after the “spring forward,” and decreases after the “fall back” when the public gets an extra hour to sleep.
With a workforce that already struggles enough to get proper sleep, throwing this nighttime curveball every March is not only unnecessary, it’s dangerous.
According to Harvard medical studies, evidence suggests that disrupted sleep patterns were a factor of recent history’s largest disasters, including the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the Challenger shuttle explosion, and the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.
“Circadian rhythms are sacred,” says Suzanne Lenz, a psychotherapist who has treated patients with sleeping disorders.
In reality, it’s hard to quantify the effects of disrupted sleeping rhythms, because the possible consequences are so numerous and hard to pinpoint.
“I see a large number of patients who have trouble sleeping, who work odd hours and suffer because of it,” Lenz said. “This change does not help them at all.”
A product of World War One, DST was introduced to reduce nighttime energy consumption, a benefit that, has been effectively cancelled out by home air-conditioning units and other cooling methods.
However, the crux of the argument is not against DST itself; a beach-going community like Santa Monica could turn militant if denied an extra hour of daylight to perfect their tan. Rather, the whole process of flip-flopping between standard time and DST should be abolished entirely, with states choosing to remain on one or the other permanently, according to regional needs.
Arizona has the right idea, choosing to not observe DST at all. A victim of record temperatures and blistering summer heat waves, they simply don’t need another hour of sunlight.
Conversely, California—home to major tourist hubs like L.A. and San Francisco—may benefit financially from a permanently extended day.
With no clock shifts, confusion will be minimal—no missed appointments, no shortened nights.
However, that’s an argument for another day; a longer and hotter day, for now.
One way or the other, the switch is a harm to society’s mental health that is not worth the supposed benefits. An hour may not seem like much to lose, but to people like Bittman, it can be an eternity.
“Whatever works,” he said. “As long as I get my sleep.”