Your microwave, your oven, your watch and the car radio: They’ve all fallen victim to daylight saving time at some point. Whether you’re the person who leaves it an hour off for a few months or one who changes it right away, that task leaves us wondering why we have to adjust our clocks at certain points of the year.
Daylight saving, the practice of moving the clocks ahead an hour in order to get the most use out of daylight time during the warmer months, goes into effect the second Sunday of March and runs until the first Sunday in November.
The United States first adopted the idea of daylight saving near the end of World War I. With more usable hours of daylight, the U.S., as well as several other countries, believed the concept would help conserve fuel.
The idea was quickly abandoned but then brought back during World War II. After the war, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which gave states the power to decide whether or not to keep the practice. Under this act, states utilizing daylight saving would have six months of daylight saving time and six months of standard time.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (which was not adopted until 2007), expanded daylight saving time four weeks, with it beginning the second Sunday of March and ending the first Sunday of November, as we know it now.
The same thinking that applied during World War I still applies today in regard to daylight saving time: More daylight means we’re required to use less energy because people won’t need to turn on the lights as often. However, there is no clear evidence that this creates a huge impact on energy conservation in the country. But longer hours do give us more time for evening outdoor activities, and, according to one study, can even reduce crime.
There are some cons that come with the practice, too. For example, one study suggests the sleep deprivation Americans experience in the days following the shift to daylight saving time led to more fatal car accidents. There is also research that suggests people conforming to daylight saving time have a higher risk of a heart attack due to the shifting sleep cycles.
Daylight saving time can mess up your sleep schedule, but it’s always good to know how much sleep you really need according to doctors.