Peter Levy

This year, the U.S. Senate finally passed a bill long sought by activists to make daylight saving time (DST) permanent and abolish the biannual changing of the clocks. The aptly named Sunshine Protection Act is currently sitting in the House, with lead lawmakers promising a law to get to the President’s desk by the end of the year. If you’ve ever felt your soul get crushed every November as the sun begins setting earlier than 5 p.m., you have probably been an unwilling victim of perhaps the most arbitrary yet soul-crushing institution.

Every year, we change our clocks twice. In March, we set our clocks one hour forward. Thus, when the sun would normally set at, say, 5 p.m., it now sets at 6 p.m. This hour is the savings of DST. It produces later sunsets and later sunrises, making the day appear to last longer. However, every November, we end this time of saving by switching our clocks back one hour to that of the standard time.

The invention of the concept of DST has been attributed to many different people. However, it was really World War I and not farmers that shaped DST to what it is today. The Germans theorized that moving the clock back earlier in the summer could be used to save energy and, in particular, valuable coal to be used in fueling the imperial war machine. On May 1, 1916, they, as well as their allies in Austria-Hungary, were the first to propose a temporary DST effort for the war effort. Not to be left behind, Britain and the allied powers — including the United States — imposed similar measures. Most countries abandoned DST following the war, only reimposing them during World War II and the 1970s energy crisis.

First and foremost, year-round DST benefits small businesses. The Chamber of Commerce has advocated for it ever since its inception, as later days encourage consumers to be out later and are more likely to spend money at local businesses. DST has lasted simply because it is good for the economy and, at least in theory, good for energy, not because of some arbitrary reason like crop times or sleeping in later.

If its so good for the economy, why hasn’t DST been made permanent already?

Congress once tried imposing universal DST in response to the energy crisis. However, chief among the issues presented were the schedules of children attending school. While DST led to longer days, it also conversely led to later nights. Children were now going to the school in the dark where they had been during the day earlier. This led to a flurry of scandalous reports of morning car crashes injuring kids on their way to school. Parents quickly mobilized, demanding a repeal of the dangerous law.

The reason why that bill was rejected is the primary reason why such measures have not been implemented today. However, there is an easy fix for this whole issue of school safety. Make schools start later! There is no reason for not starting school at 9 a.m. after the sun has risen in a world with permanent DST and just ending the issue there.

Moreover, there are numerous statistics to back up the reason why the proliferation of our current DST system is both destructive for us and our well-being. According to Northwestern Medicine, during the week following the shift to DST, the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases by 24 percent, and there is a six percent spike in fatal car crashes and an 11 percent spike in depressive episodes, including a six percent rise in suicides. Most of these statistics are the result of the abrupt change to our circadian rhythms which our bodies are simply not naturally adjusted to. The shift causes a mismatch between our natural hormonal cycle and our surroundings producing a state of induced jet lag. “Light cues from the sun also regulate metabolism, insulin production, blood pressure and hormones. And your circadian clock helps to control your immune system, so being out of whack during daylight saving time can wear down your body’s natural defenses.”

This is precisely why, according to a Monmouth University poll, 61 percent of Americans, as well as a growing number of experts, have advocated for its abolishment. From the time Gerald Ford returned DST to six months, Congress has since increased it twice and now DST takes up eight months of our 12 month year.

The abruptness of the transition to and from DST is responsible for many of the health issues associated with it. However, if DST does not benefit farmers reliant on crop schedules nor does it hurt school children if school times were pushed later and both save energy, earn money and are very popular, there is nothing preventing DST from becoming the law of the land. I, for one, will not be missing my end-of-DST seasonal depression.

Peter Levy is an undeclared sophomore.