It’s that time of year again. This coming Sunday, November 4th, at exactly 2:00 a.m., we all set our clocks back by one hour, because of Benjamin Franklin or something, and for everyone in America—unless you’re from Arizona or Hawaii or Guam, or you’re a crazy morning person who treasures getting up at the crack of dawn—the world will officially become a darker and more foreboding place.
Yes, it’s the official end of daylight saving time—not “savings time” as some over-pluralizing fools would have you believe—where we’re all compelled to change our clocks even though the majority of us think the entire thing is insane and contrary to human happiness.
I hate daylight saving. Every spring, it’s like somebody gives you a winning lottery ticket, and then several months later in the fall, after you’re just getting used to being rich, they say, “Yeah, I’ve changed my mind. I want the money back.”
I’m not alone in my hatred of DST. A 2017 poll from EndDaylightSavingTime.org found that 74 percent of Americans want to end daylight saving time once and for all. (But then again, this isn’t exactly surprising results from a poll sponsored by EndDaylightSavingTime.org. It’d be like finding out that 89 percent of people hate broccoli, according to BroccoliIsTheDevil.com.)
Regardless, I hear the haters, and I happily join them.
Why? Well, it’s simple. Though I’m happy with the idea of getting a cool 25-hour day in November, the costs are too great in the long run. Chiefly: the sun will go from setting at roughly 6:00 p.m.—which is already depressing enough—to setting at roughly 5:00 p.m.
Do you like living in a dark, dystopian, Blade Runner-esque world in which the sun basically never shines on your commute home? Of course you don’t. So why are we letting this happen in the first place?
The Origins of DST
The notion of playing God with sunlight originated with one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. He argued that people would be more productive and waste less candlelight at night if they just woke up earlier, and this could be accomplished by tricking the sun into rising earlier. Keep in mind, this is logic from the same man who came up with “air baths,” a morning ritual in which he sat next to an open window in the middle of winter, totally naked, and waited for inspiration to come.
Daylight saving didn’t come into vogue until the early 20th century, where it was introduced as an energy-saving method during wartime. When it was instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt, it wasn’t called daylight saving but “War Time,” which is just another example of how much cooler everything was during our grandparents’ time. (“Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead tonight for WAR TIME!”)
It became standard practice in 1966, and now it’s just something we all do without thinking, like hiding painted eggs at Easter or not wearing white after Labor Day. The idea that we do it to save energy is just flat-out wrong.
A 2008 U.S. Department of Energy study revealed that daylight saving time cuts down on energy use annually by only about 0.03%. And if you’ve heard that we do it for farmers, you’ve bought into a myth created by the Chamber of Commerce, who promised that changing your clocks meant that farmers wouldn’t be stuck with apples “picked before the sun had the chance to dry the dew.” Sorry, no, that’s not true, and farmers actually hate daylight saving as it messes up their harvesting schedule.
Why DST Reversal Unfairly Prioritizes Morning People
You may’ve heard rumblings that when daylight saving ends in the fall, it results in more heart attacks and strokes—up to a 23 percent increase in the weeks following the clock change, according to a 2014 study—but it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. According to Dr. Hitinder Gurm, an interventional cardiologist who led the study, most of those heart attacks “happen in patients who are otherwise at high risk, like smokers, those with high blood pressure, and diabetes.” That’s like saying, “The end of daylight saving causes male baldness, especially in guys who it was already pretty obvious were gonna lose their hair!”
No, a real reason to hate the cruel reversal of daylight saving is that it’s making us less productive and lazier. The moment you set your clocks back this Sunday, you’re essentially announcing to the universe, “I give up! I don’t even have the energy to try anymore!”
That may sound paranoid, but there’s evidence to back it up. A 2012 study demonstrated that losing daylight saving time resulted in “a dramatic increase in cyberloafing behavior at the national level,” according to Penn State researchers. After “falling back” each year, people were mysteriously less motivated to do things like get out of bed, pull on some pants and get to work, and could only muster enough energy to scroll through endless websites and social media feeds.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also making us depressed. A 2017 study from Denmark found that cases of seasonal affective disorder spiked directly after people were forced to change their clocks back an hour earlier for no good reason. And it has nothing to do with cooler temperatures or post-vacation blues. It’s because, as I stated earlier, the days are shorter and the sun now sets too early—and we’d probably be better off leaving the clock exactly as it is and having the sun set later in the day.
“We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight,” the study’s co-author Søren D. Østergaard said in a statement. “Because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark.”
It took us all summer to get used to the sun setting at a normal hour again, and then suddenly everything changes for the worse. Now the sun rises way too early and it gets dark long before anyone has even finished their workday. It feels unnatural because it is unnatural. It’s a system that works for only one type of cultural weirdo: The morning person.
Perhaps you’ve encountered these oddities. They’re those strange creatures that think getting up at the crack of dawn is the only way to start the day. Far be it from us to stereotype anybody, but morning people are insane. And potentially evil.
That’s not just us. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics, studied the differences between morning people and those who do their best work later in the day, and he found that “more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal, getting up later in the morning and going to bed later in the evening, than less intelligent individuals.”
By giving all the best sunlight to people motivated enough to get up early, you’re messing with our sleep cycles, and that’s a form of violence.
“Sleep deprivation actually kills brain cells,” says James Maas, a retired Cornell University professor and author of Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired to Ask. “That’s going to destroy accuracy in terms of brain function. There’s new research that the brain can be irreversibly injured through sleep loss. We used to think, well, you can catch up on the weekend. That’s wrong! You actually fry your brain.”
You may think it’s unfair of us to dismiss all morning people as freaks of nature who possibly conspired to end daylight saving time once a year as a way to keep down normal people who don’t want to miss out on sunlight just because they slept till 9. But consider this: Benjamin Franklin, the guy who first proposed the general principles of daylight saving time, also had the idea to wake up late sleepers by firing a cannon at dawn, as a sort of public alarm clock but without the snooze feature. Who would ever suggest such a thing other than an unrepentant jerk?
There are many people fighting for a saner world where the clocks don’t change willy-nilly, including a pair of University of Washington law professors who’ve been arguing that we need to make daylight saving our new national standard. No more “falling back” with our clocks every November. Let’s keep things the way they are, where nobody has to drive home in the dark and you’ll never again encounter a perky morning person who greets you with a big obnoxious smile and a cheerful taunt like, “Where’ve you been, sleepyhead? You’ve missed half the day already!”
There’s no fighting it, we suppose. We still have to “fall back” this Sunday like everybody else. Either that or we end up being late to everything for the next six months. But the next time somebody tells you, “Don’t forget to change your clock,” feel free to shout back at them, “Stop oppressing my freedom of sleep with your mind control! Viva la revolución!”
And for more reasons you should totally hate the bi-yearly time change, don’t miss the 23 Ways Daylight Saving Time Harms Your Health.
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