Americans will go on Daylight Savings Time (DST) in about a month even though most of us have no idea why we have to change our clocks twice each year. According to this site, the idea for changing the clocks in the summer originated with Benjamin Franklin. He recognized that people could enjoy more daylight in the summer evenings and save energy by simply changing the clocks. His idea did not gain traction until May 1916 when Germany established DST to save energy during World War I and the rest of Europe quickly followed. The United States took some time to adopt DST but did so in 1918.
DST ended soon after World War I was over and did not start again until February 9, 1942, at the start of World War II. At that time it was called “War Time” and lasted all year. States and cities had the choice of whether or not to use DST after the war – at least until 1966 when the Uniform Time Act was passed. At that time any state that chose – with the emphasis on choice – to observe DST would have to follow a uniform protocol for the entire state with DST starting on the first Sunday of April and ending on the last Sunday in October. In 2007 the Energy Policy Act of 2005 expanded DST to the current timing. DST now starts on the second Sunday in March and lasts until the first Sunday in November.
States can opt in or opt out of DST. Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST, and some states consider opting out each year. I think that one reason why states do not actually opt out is the difficulty of dealing with states surrounding them being on a different time schedule. I personally believe that DST makes little difference to my home state of Alaska because we have almost endless daylight in mid-summer and only five hours of daylight in mid-winter. One hour one way or the other means little to us. I believe that the reason that Alaska observes DST is to stay in sync with the rest of the nation.
Since the shift to DST will arrive in about a month, Americans would be wise to decide how we will use it to our advantage this year. One of my nieces keeps her children on a year-round schedule. During the winter she gets them up at 8:00 but lets them sleep until 9:00 in the summer. It is the same sleep schedule, so they do not need to adjust.
I personally find that traveling during the DST change is difficult, so I do not plan any trips during the weekends of change. This way my body does not have to adjust to jet lag while also adjusting to DST. I happen to be married to a night owl who likes to stay up late. When the time jumps forward in the spring, I continue to go to bed on the same schedule, which is good because it is actually an hour earlier than winter time.
I would like the nation to make a final decision. If DST is so wonderful, why not have it year around? If it is not good enough for year round, why have it at all? The energy savings – the reason for having it in both World War I and World War II – do not amount to much now because we have better lighting and heating systems. The lack of real energy savings may not be worth the additional health and accident problems that come at the changing of the clocks. Congress should weigh the pros and cons and make a final decision that would take us out of this ever-changing daylight schedule.