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Is Daylight Saving Time really needed? If so, why not year-round?

By Joe Marusak • Mar 11, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Is Daylight Saving Time really needed? If so, why not keep it year-round?

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, when we once again move our clocks an hour forward.

Why do we mess with the circadian rhythm in our bodies by moving clocks back an hour in fall and an hour forward in spring? Do we really need to do this to ourselves?

Unless you’re reading this in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, yep, it’s that time again. Time to continue a tradition started in the modern era by Germany in World War I to conserve fuel.

And everyone loves a little more sun, right?

Daylight Saving Time was first used in 1908 in Thunder Bay, Canada, although American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin advocated the practice as far back as 1784. Franklin did so somewhat tongue-in-cheek, when he was living in Paris, France. Parisians, he wrote, could save on candles by getting out of bed earlier with the earlier morning light.

Germany became the first country to adopt the practice, to conserve fuel in World War I. The U.S. followed in 1918 and used it again in World War II.

The idea in the U.S. was sparked by Robert Garland, a Pittsburgh industrialist often called the “Father of Daylight Saving,” according to timeanddate.com. He’d seen it work in the United Kingdom.

Confusion reigned, however, especially for public transportation and broadcasters, until the U.S. Uniform Time Act of 1966. The act said Daylight Saving Time would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October, although states still could opt out.

Congress extended Daylight Saving Time to 10 months in 1974 and eight months in 1975 to save energy after the 1973 oil embargo, but critics said the dark winter mornings endangered children headed to school, according to TimeAndDate.com.

The U.S. is among about 70 countries using Daylight Saving Time, although its merits are still up for debate.

Studies have questioned its energy savings, and critics say disrupted sleep patterns from the clock changes can cause health problems.

Some sleep experts argue that if we’re going to have Daylight Saving Time, we should keep it year-round.

Otherwise, we’re messing with the 24-hour circadian rhythm in our bodies, which regulates when we go to sleep and when we wake up, Dr. Jamal Mohammed, co-director of sleep medicine at the University of California at Davis, told The Sacramento Bee.

The body takes up to two weeks to completely readjust after each clock change, he said. Some studies, meanwhile, show increased physical activity in children thanks to Daylight Saving Time, according to Mohammed.

“We should keep Daylight Saving Time for the whole year on, completely,” he said.

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