March 15, 2015

Abolish Daylight Savings Time

A week ago we stumbled into Daylight Savings Time. Oh yes, it's nice to have a bit more light in the evenings, but really, do we still need to do this time change thing twice a year? It's dark in the morning now and it is difficult to get up, there are more traffic accidents reported on the radio, and many of us are just more tired than before.

Increasingly, states, provinces and countries are changing their minds about the spring ahead and fall back routine we've had since around the time of the first world war when Germany started this debacle in an effort to reduce energy consumption.

Oddly, many of us grew up believing that the practice of DST was adopted for farmers. Growing up in Saskatchewan, where the time never changes, I know that to be untrue. The agricultural community in Canada and the United States was actually the only organised lobby against DST. Something to do with cows being confused by the time change, or chickens or...

Areas that use daylight saving time are marked in blue. Those that have used it in the past but stopped are in orange, while those that have never used it are in red. (Paul Eggert/Wikipedia)

Daylight Savings Time found favour in many nations with the belief that lighter and brighter evenings would mean lower demand for electricity. Studies in the US and Australia would indicate otherwise. A National Bureau of Economic Research study showed that while electricity demand dropped, the increase in air-conditioning use in the US actually increased energy consumption. The same thing was found after Australia extended DST for the 2000 Sydney Olympics; gains made in one part of the day were more than offset by energy losses at other times.

The more dangerous aspect of changing our clocks is that it is hazardous to our health. Stanley Coren, sleep expert at the University of British Columbia, recently said, "We live in a society that is chronically sleep-deprived, and very bad things happen when chronic sleep deprivation is an issue. Spring daylight saving time is a period when people lose a little extra time. Looking at different types of accidents, we found a five to seven per cent increase in accident fatalities during the three days following spring daylight saving time." This is not good, especially as pedestrians and cyclists are often the victims.

In 2008, findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in Sweden, heart attack risk rose with every spring time change. A 2012 study by the University of Alabama found that the actual risk of heart attack rose by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead one hour. This is not good in a society with an aging population a health care system itself under financial attack.

There are studies at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, that show shifting a daylight hour from morning to evening only increases what is termed social jet lag; that a person's sleeping schedule is out of whack with optimal circadian sleep periods, making the person chronically tired. This is not good, and it's the way many of us now feel.

There are strong supporters of Daylight Savings Time and cash certainly rules the Excited States. For example, back in the 1980s when DST was expanded in North America, the golf industry estimated that an extra month of DST was worth between $200 to $400 million. During the same time the US barbecue industry suggested their increased profits were $150 million for that extra month. Those are 1980s dollars. True enough, outdoor activities for all demographics increase with the advent of extra sunlight in the evening, but that would happen anyway because of the naturally longer days of summer.

The way the world times itself is changing, and major trading nations like Japan and China have abandoned the practice of switching clocks back and forth twice a year. Argentina, Peru, Russia and many others have seen the light. It's time we abolished Daylight Savings Time too. We will all live a little longer, sleep much better, businesses will continue to function and summer will still be filled with long and glorious days.

Copyright 2015.

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