Every year, most of the 196 countries observe daylight saving time, where clocks are adjusted to move one hour up in the spring and one hour back in the fall. This practice is designed to extend the amount of daylight in the evening, but it can also have significant effects on one’s health.
The following is insightful information as to when and why Daylight Saving and Standard Times started, where it is practiced, the pros and cons, and the hidden health risks of simply changing the clock by one hour.
When DST and ST First Began
The concepts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) and Standard Time (ST) was developed independently by different individuals in different countries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to help regulate and standardize timekeeping across regions.
Standard Time was developed in the late 19th century in response to the growth of rail travel, which required consistent schedules across different regions. Prior to the establishment of Standard Time, each town would set its own time based on the position of the sun, which made it difficult to coordinate travel and communication.
A Scottish Canadian engineer and inventor named Sir Sandford Fleming proposed dividing the world into 24 time zones in 1879, with each zone using a standard time one hour apart, which would make it easier for people to synchronize schedules and avoid confusion. He coined the word “Standard Time” and his system was eventually adopted by many countries around the world, and is still in use today.
Daylight Saving Time is credited to a British builder named William Willett, who proposed the idea of moving the clocks forward in the summer months to take advantage of the longer daylight hours. He first presented the idea in a pamphlet in 1907, and campaigned for it until his death in 1915.
The idea was eventually adopted by several countries in 1916 after Willett passed and during World War I as a way to conserve energy. Germany became the first country to adopt Daylight Saving Time and other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, soon followed suit. The idea was that by moving the clock ahead one hour during the summer months, people would use less electricity for lighting in the evenings, since there would be more daylight.
Changing the Time Around the World
The timing of Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time varies by country and region, rather than by continent. Some countries, like the US, observe Daylight Saving Time and switch to Standard Time on specific dates each year, usually in the spring and fall. However, the dates and times of these changes can vary by country.
For example, in the European Union, Daylight Saving Time starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. However, individual EU countries can choose to opt out of Daylight Saving Time if they wish. In Russia, there is no Daylight Saving Time, and the country observes Standard Time all year round.
Similarly, countries in the Southern Hemisphere may observe Daylight Saving Time during different months than those in the Northern Hemisphere, as their seasons are opposite. For example, Australia observes Daylight Saving Time from October to April, while New Zealand observes it from September to April.
Several countries around the world do not observe Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time altogether. Some of these countries include:
- Brazil: Certain regions of Brazil do not observe Daylight Saving Time, including the states of Bahia and Goiás.
- China: Does not observe Daylight Saving Time, although it did briefly experiment with it in the past.
- Iceland: Does not observe Daylight Saving Time.
- Iran: Stopped observing Daylight Saving Time in 2021.
- Japan: Used to observe Daylight Saving Time, but it was abolished in 1951.
- Nepal: Does not observe Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time.
- Russia: Abolished Daylight Saving Time in 2011 and now observes Standard Time all year round.
Changing the Clocks in the Untied States
Every year, twice a year in the US, we experience the shift from daylight saving time to standard time and vice versa in most states and territories. For most people, this is a minor inconvenience that requires them to adjust their clocks by one hour. However, this seemingly insignificant change can have significant effects on our health.
As of 2023, there are two US states and several US territories that do not observe Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time:
- Hawaii: Hawaii s located near the equator, so it experiences very little variation in daylight hours throughout the year. Therefore, there is no need to adjust the clocks for Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time.
- Arizona: Arizona also does not observe Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time, except for the Navajo Nation in the northeast corner of the state, which does observe Daylight Saving Time. The decision to not observe Daylight Saving Time was made in 1968, with the goal of avoiding the need for residents to adjust their clocks during the hot summer months when air conditioning usage is high.
- In addition to these two states, there are several US territories that also do not observe Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time. These territories include: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.
The Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Health
Right before spring season starts, we “spring forward” in great anticipating in leaving behind the long winter months (especially for those living the colder US regions) on the second Sunday of every March. We move our clocks one hour ahead and lose an hour of valuable sleep.
This loss of sleep can disrupt our circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep and wake cycles. Our bodies are accustomed to waking up and falling asleep at a certain time, and when this rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to fatigue, irritability, and decreased productivity. Some of us can change with the one-hour difference right away, others cannot and it may take days or weeks to fully adjust to the change.
The shift to daylight saving time has also been linked to an increase in accidents and heart attacks. Studies have found that the loss of one hour of sleep in the spring can lead to an increase in traffic accidents and workplace injuries. There is also evidence that the disruption of our sleep patterns can increase the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
The Effect of Standard Time on Health
In the fall, when we “fall back” on the first Sunday in November, we move our clocks one hour back and thankfully gain an hour of sleep. While this may seem like a good thing, suddenly going to bed and waking up an hour earlier can surprisingly lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating. This can also disrupt our circadian rhythms, leading to problems with our sleep and wake cycles.
Moreover, the shift to standard time can also have negative effects on our mood. The shorter days and longer nights can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is related to the change in the seasons. Symptoms of SAD can include fatigue, sadness, and difficulty sleeping.
Tips for Coping with the Time Change
To minimize the effects of daylight saving time and standard time on your health, here are several suggestions:
- Gradually adjust your sleep schedule: In the days leading up to the time change, you can gradually adjust your sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up 15 minutes earlier or later each day until you are back on our normal schedule.
- Get plenty of sunlight: Exposure to sunlight can help regulate your circadian rhythms and improve your mood. During the fall and winter months, when daylight is scarce, it may be helpful to spend time outside during the day or invest in a light therapy box.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends. This can help regulate your body’s internal clock and make it easier to adjust to the time change.
- Practice good sleep hygiene: Establishing good sleep habits can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. This can include things like avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and avoiding electronic devices before bed.
- Be mindful of your health: Pay attention to your body and any changes in your mood or energy levels. If you notice any persistent symptoms, such as fatigue or difficulty sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider.
The transition from daylight saving time to standard time and back again may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can have significant effects on your health. By taking steps to minimize the disruption to your sleep patterns and mood, you can make the transition easier and reduce the risk of accidents and health problems.
So, the next time the clock changes, be mindful of how it may be affecting your health and take steps to mitigate any negative effects.
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.