Daylight saving time: Is it worth it?

Daylight saving was instituted in order to save energy, but that may not be as true as it once was. Changing clocks twice a year also may disrupt our "body clocks," reducing productivity.

Elise Amendola/AP
Dave LeMote wipes down a post clock at Electric Time Company, Inc. in Medfield, Mass. Most Americans will set their clocks 60 minutes back before heading to bed Saturday night, but daylight saving time officially starts Sunday at 2 a.m. local time.

It’s that time of year again. Time to “fall back” an hour as we go around the house changing the clocks on the features of modern life – appliances and such like. The really modern stuff – computers, smart phones, weather devices boasting atomic clocks – seem to take care of themselves.

The extra hour of sleep that comes for many with the switch to standard time may be welcome. But daylight saving, said to have been thought up by Benjamin Franklin (to save candles) and first put into practice by German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II Emperor during World War I, seems to be becoming less popular.

Back in March (when most of us remembered to “spring forward”) the polling firm Rasmussen Reports found that “only 33 percent of American adults think DST is worth the hassle.”

That is down from 37 percent last year and 45 percent in 2012. Forty-eight percent “do not think the clock changing ritual is worth it,” according to Rasmussen.

For one thing, the time switch may not be saving all that much energy, which is one of the main reasons for the tradition.  As the Monitor’s David Clark Scott wrote at this time last year:

“Studies show mixed results. For example, The Christian Science Monitor reports that in Indiana, daylight saving time caused a 1 percent jump in electricity, according to a 2010 study. The energy saved from reduced lighting in the summer months was canceled out by an increase in the use of heating and air conditioning, the researchers from Yale University and University of California Santa Barbara said.”

In Alabama, state Sen. Rusty Glover is crafting a bill that ends the semiannual clock switching by keeping time in his state at what now is daylight saving.

"I have heard from constituents and businesses from around the state for years about this issue," Sen. Glover said in a release. "Our legislation will make sure that children riding the late afternoon school bus, or working people who get off at 5 o'clock, won't have to come home in the dark."

"It's time to move on," Glover said. "Our legislation will end the arcane, imposed, and artificial time adjustments that simply make no sense."

In a piece headlined “Daylight Saving Time Is Bad For Your Health,” Business Insider warns that a small shift in time “can have a large impact on our body clock.”

“Transitions associated with the start and end of DST disturb sleep patterns, and make people restless at night, which results in sleepiness the next day,” according to this report. “This sleepiness leads to a loss of productivity and an increase in ‘cyberloafing’ in which people muck around more on the computer instead of working.”
 Time magazine online quotes an expert who agrees, citing the safety reasons Glover notes, including the likelihood of traffic accidents.

“Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives,” University of Washington Law Professor Steve Calandrillo, who has studied the effectiveness of different DST policies, told Time. “The question is ‘when do you want sunlight?'”

“At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” said Professor Calandrillo, who advocates year-round DST. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

But for now, people in Alabama and most other states will need to switch clocks before they go to bed tonight. Internet-connected computers and smart phones will do it on their own at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

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