West Virginians and (most of) the rest of America will wake up Sunday morning hopefully having enjoyed an extra hour of sleep after setting clocks back to standard time the night before.
It might seem a nonconsequential thing, but “falling back” and the inevitable “spring forward” — setting clocks forward an hour to daylight saving time, which will occur on March 2, 2020 — is probably one of the few concepts these days on which everyone has an opinion they are willing to discuss in a civil manner. Standard time advocates enjoy the extra hour of sleep and can feel off for days or longer after losing it in the spring, whereas daylight savers love that extra light in the spring and summer.
There’s been a lot of talk about just sticking with one or the other permanently, and several states are attempting to do that now. Although the practice of daylight saving time goes back about a century, it wasn’t a universal thing across the country until LBJ made it so in 1966. And states could — and can still — opt out.
A prevalent myth exists that daylight saving time was enacted to help farmers, but, as USA Today pointed out in a recent story, it was actually adopted as an attempt to reduce energy consumption — the reasoning being, if it’s lighter longer (during a time of year when there is already more natural light), people wouldn’t have to use the lights in their homes as much. The success of that theory is debatable, with some researchers pointing out that energy consumption from electric lighting does go down, but it kicks up in other areas, like by operating air-conditioners.
Time change isn’t as trivial a topic as some might think. For many Americans, having one less hour of daylight, during a time when natural light is already less abundant, leads to depression. As for springing forward, as an article from The Associated Press pointed out, researchers have found car accidents typically go up on those first few days, people are generally more stressed and, in some cases, more likely to become ill. Losing an hour of sleep messes with the body clock and reflexes, researchers say, which poses greater health risks.
State governments can pass their own legislation opting out of daylight saving time, but it would take congressional approval for the entire country to adopt standard time year round. Either are ideas worth considering, although, then, Americans would have one less topic on which an actual friendly debate is possible.