“Spring forward and fall back.” This statement’s relation to time is known the world over and holds significant meaning, especially for countries observing daylight saving time (DST). Daylight saving time represents an adjustment in time by moving forward one hour to increase the length of daylight in the evening, generally during the summer time. The practice is used for the summer because it robs one hour of daylight at the start of the day, rendering it impractical in winter. However, for people who follow the world clock, there is an added hour of daylight after regular work hours to engage in “daytime” activities of choice.
Although the concept of Daylight Savings Time may be familiar around the world, not all countries observe the DST. Curiously enough, some countries are split on the DST issue even more, for example, Australia, where some states adhere to the Daylight Savings and others do not. Generally, whether a country observes DST or not will largely depend on their geographical location: countries clustered around the equator have no need to switch to DST as around the circumference of the globe, it’s always 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Unlike in the North, around the equator, the days and nights do not grow shorter or longer regardless of season. The further from the equator, the more the length of days and nights change because of the Earth’s natural tilt. Around the Arctic circle, the nights are longer; around the Mediterranean, less so.
Whether your home country observes the DST or not, it’s handy to know your time around the world if you work or communicate with people from different countries. Time zone differences aside, there may be additional variation of time depending on the DST observations. For example, territories observing Central Daylight Time (CDT) will switch to Central Standard Time (CST) in winter. So if you’re trying to call someone in New Orleans, remember you’ll need to check their current local CDT time in summer and CST in winter.
To better understand the origins, history, and use of Daylight Savings Time around the world, let’s dig a little deeper.
History of Daylight Savings Time
Records prove the use of daylight saving time for roughly 100 years, dating back to the Roman period when people used water clock scales to account for longer summer days and shorter winter days. Interestingly, archaeologists have found evidence that earlier in human history, the sun’s schedule was the basis for developing daily schedules. In many ways, that makes sense: early humans, much like us, preferred to make good use of daylight hours instead of toiling in the dark.
Speaking of working under the candlelight: in Germany, the Daylight Savings time was first introduced during the World War I era in order to save energy and help the war effort. Burning electricity needlessly when natural daylight could be extended by one whole hour seemed inefficient to the Germans, so in 1916, Germany became the first country in the world to implement the Daylight Savings Time on scale.
However, it wasn’t the Germans who came up with the idea first. In 1895, a New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson discovered he could save himself an entire two hours of working in the dark by ways of moving the clock forward in spring, when the sun sets later. Hudson was so enthusiastic about his discovery he wrote a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society – and gained interest. Unfortunately, New Zealanders just weren’t ready for Hudson’s innovation, and the proposal was never carried out.
Almost at the same time – barely seven years later – an Englishman by the name of William Willet was struck by the same idea. Willett, a builder, was out for an early morning horse ride when he realized an entire nation could benefit from a simple moving of the clock one hour ahead to save daylight. He was so adamant he proposed his new way of looking at time to the British Parliament, and famous figures like Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actively supported the idea. The English Parliament, on the other hand, did not, and although Willett argued about the necessity of observing Daylight Savings Time until his death in 1915, it took England a while to warm up to the concept.
Canada, on the other hand, readily accepted the DST as early as 1908. It took another decade for the DTS concept to gain traction nationwide, but Canada, much like the US and the UK, soon followed Germany’s example because of the war years. Saving energy, it seemed, was on everybody’s priority list.
Today, the energy-saving aspect of DST is somewhat less important, but enjoying longer summer days is something people appreciate around the world.
How Does DST Work?
The most obvious thing about the mechanism of Daylight Saving Time is that we lose one hour when it starts but we gain one after it finishes. But it’s interesting to find out how exactly the DST works.
As you probably already know, Daylight Saving Time usually starts in the spring. During this time, the population of the countries or regions that observe DST set their clocks forward by 1 hour. Therefore, part of the world skips one hour on the DST transition day. That’s what makes this one particular day so special – it consists only of 23 hours instead of 24.
Generally, the transition happens at night in order to avoid confusion in society. Accordingly, people just sleep one hour less than their usual routine. Since one hour is not a big deal, our body and mind can somehow adjust to the change. Still, many people consider DST’s effect on our health very negative. But before we discuss its disadvantages, let’s focus on the positive things. Fortunately for those who work during the night, you will be able to leave work earlier on this one day.
For example, in the United States, Daylight Saving Time began at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 13 in 2021. It will finish on Sunday, November 7 at 2 a.m. and people will have to turn their clocks back one hour. The easiest way to remember this mechanism is by using the expression “Spring forward, fall back”. On March 14 the US changed the time to “spring ahead” and on November 7 they will “fall back”.
Why Do We Need Daylight Saving Time?
Even though the purpose of Daylight Saving Time is very clear at a first glance, the debates never end about its convenience. Does it really have significant benefits? Do we need DST at all? People often ask these and many other questions.
Daylight Saving Time or “Summer Time” as many people call it around the world, helps us to use daylight more effectively. In fact, the main purpose of changing the clocks during the summer months is to have a bigger day and shorter night. As a result, instead of waking up at night and finishing working or studying in the dark, the world has an opportunity to start the day when the sun has already risen and finish the main activities of the day before dusk.
One of the main advantages of DST is that people have larger evenings during this period. Also, we can reduce the use of artificial light. Therefore, we can minimize energy consumption and reduce our costs. Besides, according to the studies, the crime rates usually drop during DST which may seem rather surprising but it’s a fact. Research also proves that DST can lead to fewer car crashes and road accidents. Considering all these beneficial effects, DST has to be a great way to make better use of natural daylight. However, research also shows the negative outcomes which is why we can’t say that observing DST is 100% advantageous.
Problems with DST
Daylight Saving Time can certainly help us to save daylight but many countries still refuse to observe DST. Why do they hesitate? Is it really worth switching to “Summer Time”?
In fact, Daylight Saving Time is accompanied by serious mental and physical health issues, including increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and more. Not everybody finds it easy to adjust to the changes in their daily routine. The fact that it can interfere with our circadian rhythm is one of the reasons why people experience seasonal affective disorder and several other mental health conditions.
Some of the other cons of switching to DST are the following:
- Increased risks of a heart attack on the following Monday.
- Feeling fatigued on the following Monday.
- Inability to adjust to the change in time, resulting in decreased productivity and distress.
- Negative effect on the eating habits of pets.
Can DST Save Energy?
People often use the argument of reducing the energy during Daylight Saving Time. But most times, it can’t really overcome its cons because studies show that DST doesn’t actually save energy, and even more, it has an opposite effect. The main purpose to introduce DST was to avoid wasting many candles for lighting at night. There would be more hours of daylight which could lead to the decreased need for artificial light. And indeed, a century ago it actually conserved a lot of electricity and fuel.
But what happened today? Is DST still capable of saving energy? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t positive. In fact, using computers, air conditioners, or phone chargers is an integral part of modern society. In the 21st century, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s day or night, everybody needs electricity to work or spend leisure time. Consequently, the amount of energy saved with DST is insignificant.
DST’s Negative Impact on Health
At a first glance, delaying the clock for one hour shouldn’t be a big deal. But it turns out that the opponents of DST do have some rational reasons. A lot of studies proved that changing the time has a negative effect on our physical and mental health. First of all, Daylight Saving Time disrupts our circadian rhythm, meaning that it’s hard for our “body clocks” to adapt to the change. Also, the early evening after the end of the DST increases the risk of mood disorders such as depression. The reason is that the sun is the best source of vitamin D which is vital for our bodies. And the low levels of vitamin D increase the chances of depression. In the worst case, the lack of sunlight can even cause a seasonal affective disorder.
Besides, DST increases the chance of heart attacks and cardiovascular disorders. Specifically, stroke rates are 8% higher in the first two days after the DST. As a result, the debates about the need for Daylight Saving Time continues and probably, it’s not going to stop any time soon.
Use of DST Around the World
Regardless of where a country is located geographically, the choice of observing the Daylight Savings Time is up to its people and government. Currently, around 70 countries use DST either nationwide or regionally; the three major countries that do not observe Daylight Savings are India, China, and Japan.
Most commonly, DST is observed in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia as well as parts of South America and Oceania. Because the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, they daylight savings time changes occur in winter rather than summer, and vice versa in the Northern Hemisphere.
Countries that currently observe the DST:
- Canada, except Yukon, most of Saskatchewan, and parts of British Columbia (northeast), Nunavut (Southampton Island), Ontario (Atikokan) and Quebec (Le Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent)
- Mexico: Baja California, and municipalities within 20 km of the U.S. border except in Sonora
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United States, except Arizona (except Navajo Nation), Hawaii, and U.S. territories
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Faroe Islands
- Greenland, except Danmarkshavn and Thule Air Base
- Isle of Man
- North Macedonia
- Northern Cyprus
- San Marino
- Ukraine, except Crimea, Donetsk PR and Luhansk PR
- United Kingdom
- Vatican City
- Chile, except Magallanes Region
- Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory, New South Wales (except Lord Howe Island), Norfolk Island, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria
- New Zealand
DST Choices and Curiosities
Although most countries around the world readily accepted the idea of Daylight Savings in the first part of the twentieth century, many have subsequenlty abolished DST time changes. Most recently, a list of countries that stopped observing DTS includes Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Cook Islands, Egypt, Falkland Islands, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Iraq, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, Namibia, Russia, Sudan, Turkey, Uruguay, and Vanuatu. Some of these countries ditched DST altogether, while others accepted DST as their time standard year round. Permanent DST? Why not!
Within the European Union, the European Commission conducted several surveys to find out whether Europeans actually wanted the DST changes. In 2018, almost five million survey responders within the EU expressed they would rather not move the clock back and forth; interestingly, Germans were especially vocal about ditching the DST for good – in Germany, 84% survey participants said they‘d rather not adjust their clocks. However, the DST changes still persist in Europe, whether the locals enjoy the changes or not.
Similarly, United States is struggling with DST, too: several states have passed laws abolishing the Daylight Savings Time, but without the support of federal government, these laws aren’t valid. With the exception of Arizona and Hawaii, most states in the US follow the DST.
However, the Daylight Savings Time curiosities do not end here. To uncover some more fascinating DST information, we’ve compiled a list of Daylight Savings Time fun facts – make sure to read to the end of the article to find out why DST is especially beneficial for candy makers:
- Although historically, the idea of Daylight Savings Time first occurred to the Romans and then, the famed New Zealand scientist, eighteenth-century US wasn’t far off, either. None other than Benjamin Franklin proposed the idea of moving the clocks forward in spring as early as 1784, when he wrote an essay called “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” in The Journal of Paris. Rumor has it, Franklin was unamused to be woken early by the noise in Parisian streets during his visit, and he also proposed that the use of longer daylight hours would save…candles. Now that’s a president with a strong economist’s mind.
- Speaking of economy: while the idea that DST saves time is somewhat controversial, U.S. Department of Transportation conducted a study showing that DST cuts the nation’s electricity use by one percent. However, that’s just one study, and there are plenty of others showing the exact opposite and claiming that Daylight Saving Time actually increases electricity usage up to 4 percent. Which study was right, remains undecided.
- DST is bad news for the television industry: if people did not move the clocks and got home when it’s already dark, nighttime TV shows would receive much more attention. However, as the clocks are moved forward and people are able to stay out longer, nobody wants to settle in and watch the TV – so much so that 2009 “American Idol” hit record low ratings because it was released immediately after the summer time change. Statistics show that prime-time TV show ratings drop by 10% when we change the time – and that’s probably good news if it means people are spending more time outdoors rather than slumped in front of their TVs.
- Much like with lower TV show ratings, it seems the DST may have killed the drive – in movie theaters in the US. When the DST was widely adopted across the entire country in 1966, owners of drive-in movie theaters saw a major decline: movies could not start during daylight hours, and movies that weren’t starting during family-friendly time just didn’t attract big audiences. Is DST really to blame? Perhaps only time will tell.
- More bad DST news: although clocks are typically only moved an hour or two, it can mess with children’s and teenagers’ sleep schedules so much that it affects their performance at school and their exam results. A study done by the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics revealed that there was a two-percent score drop in exam results when tests were being taken right after the time change.
- This doesn’t just affect children and young people: adults often complain about the negative effects of DST changes, too. One study showed that workers sleep around forty minutes less on average right after the switch to DST, and it takes us weeks to adapt to new sleep cycles – so much so that DST changes and the resulting sleep deprivation is sometimes linked to higher car accident and depression rates.
- Unsurprisingly, only 36% of Americans like the idea of DST, according to citizen surveys. More than half of survey respondents in the US do not believe that DST saves energy, and almost 20% admitted being late for work after the DST changes because they forget to adjust the clocks. In fact, the US even hosts a national movement called Lock the Clock, petitioning to abolish the use of DST altogether.
- Despite complaints and criticism, DST does have one positive effect: a significant drop in crime. A study conducted in 2015 showed that crime rates drop in spring when the DST is introduced – apparently, robbers and burglars do not like operating in plain daylight.
- In addition, DST once helped prevent a tragedy: in September 1999, terrorists in the West Bank failed to account for Israel’s time change and the planned bombing failed to kill the intended victims, ending the lives of three terrorists instead.
- Most people assume DST begins at the stroke of midnight – but that’s not actually true. Daylight saving time begins at 2 am in the morning; this is done to delay people noticing it. If the clocks were changed at midnight, it would be more obvious, whereas at two in the morning, the change goes unnoticed as most people are asleep.
- Curiously, DST negatively affects night owls more than morning people.
- DST seems to induce mindless scrolling: according to one survey, people tend to browse the web and scroll their social media feeds at work more right after the DST change, likely owing to sleep deprivation. In addition, DST changes may be responsible for increased headaches. Ouch.
- In the USD, DST wasn’t always…DST. During the World War I, it was known as the “fast time” and “war time”. Let’s just agree that Daylight Saving sounds much better.
- There is a popular myth that DST was introduced to help farmers produce more. This couldn’t be further from the truth: as early as the 1960s, farmers have been complaining that the DST changes negatively affect the animals, namely cows who are very sensitive to exact milling times. And if that wasn’t enough, harvesting wheat and other grain is most productive right after the morning dew evaporates… so despite best intentions, DST just isn’t working for the farmers.
- On the other hand, later sunsets mean… more candy sales. How? Halloween: because of DST, kids can stay up late and go trick-a-treating longer during Halloween, and that’s good news for the candy and chocolate bar industry.