The second Sunday of March is almost here, which means it’s time to ‘spring forward’ as daylight saving time (DST) begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 12th and clocks move forward an hour.
Whether you call it ‘daylight savings’ or ‘summer time’ or ‘cottage time’, the good news is that we’ll get more daylight in the evening hours (the sun will set at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday night). The bad news is that we’ll lose an hour of sleep and it will be darker in the morning (the sun will rise at 7:31 a.m. on Sunday morning).
If you still have any manual clocks, remember to set them forward an hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.
Here’s what you should know about daylight saving time (DST):
Who invented daylight saving time and why?Although it’s commonly believed Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea for DST, it was actually New Zealand entomologist George Hudson.
In 1895, Hudson proposed a two-hour shift in the clocks (he wanted more daylight to collect insects).
“The effect of this alteration would be to advance all the day’s operations in summer two hours compared with the present system,” Hudson wrote in 1898, explaining his original proposal. “In this way the early-morning daylight would be utilised, and a long period of daylight leisure would be made available in the evening for cricket, gardening, cycling, or any other outdoor pursuit desired.”
A few years later, English outdoorsman William Willett also proposed advancing the clocks during the summer months (he wanted more daylight to golf).
The first governments to implement DST were Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916, as a way to conserve coal during World War I. Britain and most other European countries adopted it shortly after, with the United States and Canada adopting it in 1918.
DST used to begin the first Sunday of April and end the last Sunday of October, but in 2007 the U.S. decided to change it to begin the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday of November in an attempt to conserve energy.
To avoid issues with economic and social interactions with the U.S., the Canadian provinces that observe DST followed suit.
What are the health effects of changing time twice a year?
While the evidence is mixed, some research has found that “falling back” results in more accidents involving pedestrians, while “springing forward” increases the risk of heart attacks and traffic accidents.
In any case, moving clocks forward or backward changes our exposure to daylight and affects our circadian rhythm (the body’s natural internal clock).
In the fall, gaining an extra hour of sleep sounds like a good thing but it can actually make you feel “jet lagged”.
It can take up to a week to adjust your internal clock to the shift in daylight hours.
Why don’t we just get rid of daylight saving time?
It’s possible that we’ll soon be ending the practice of changing our clocks twice a year, but by making DST permanent rather than getting rid of it.
On November 25, 2020, the Ontario government gave royal assent to The Time Amendment Act, a private members’ bill tabled by Ottawa-West Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts that proposed making “the time now called daylight saving time the standard time year-round.” The bill would only come into force if the province of Quebec and the state of New York also make DST permanent.
The Quebec government has said it is open to the idea of making DST permanent but, like Ontario, will only consider it if neighbouring jurisdictions do the same.
The U.S. may be closer to making that decision. On March 16, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make DST permanent beginning in 2023. Despite passage in the Senate, the bill stalled in the House, where it remained in a committee until it died with the expiration of the previous Congress.
Last Thursday (March 2), Florida senator Marco Rubio reintroduced the bill into the 118th Congress.
“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” Rubio said. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”
The primary argument for adopting DST permanently is that, by increasing the amount of daylight at the end of the day, it would lead to more economic activity and reduce vehicle collisions, energy usage, and robberies.
Is making daylight saving time permanent a good idea?
Researchers in chronobiology — the study of biological rhythms — disagree that daylight saving time should be made permanent.
While they also want to get rid of the bi-annual time change, they say we should be permanently adopting standard time rather than daylight saving time.
“Based on current chronobiology knowledge, permanent Standard Time (ST) would be a wiser, healthier choice,” the Canadian Society for Chronobiology has said.
Chronobiologists say adopting permanent standard time would move sunrise closer to our body’s internal clock, while permanent daylight saving time would move it further away. It’s the light in the morning that is most important in resetting our biological clocks, they say.
And it’s not just the Canadian Society for Chronobiology advocating for the permanent adoption of standard time. The U.S.-based Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, the European Biological Rhythms Society, and the European Sleep Research Society have all issued statements supporting it.
How can we reduce the health effects of the time change?
Here are some suggestions for how you and your family can adapt more quickly to the time change:
- Each morning leading up to the time change on Sunday, try waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal.
- Also try going to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal each night. You can help prepare your body for an earlier bedtime by not eating two hours before you go to sleep, and put down your devices an hour before bed.
- Eat a healthy breakfast when you first wake up, as food is one way to tell your body it’s the beginning of the day.
- After the time change, expose yourself to daylight during waking hours as much as possible.
- Reduce your use of caffeine and alcohol during the day and increase your physical activity.