Editorial: Springing Forward Forever?

Editorial: Springing Forward Forever?


It’s been approximately 10 days since America “sprang ahead.”

Daylight saving time returned on March 13, as clocks all across America were set one hour ahead, our annual tradition designed to keep a bit more sunshine in our lives throughout the spring and summer months. When November 6 arrives, we’ll be asked to “fall back” once again.

But is all of this clock manipulation about to come to an end? The United States Senate is hoping so.

The Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent in America, was recently passed by the Senate with bi-partisan support and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. If the House agrees with the Senate, the bill will go to the desk of President Joe Biden. If he signs it, the law will go into effect in 2023. Daylight saving time will simply become … time.

According to widespread polling, eliminating standard time has overwhelming support amongst the general public, and, anecdotally, it seems to have even more appeal in the immediate aftermath of our “spring forward.” How many people arose on March 13 having forgotten to set their clocks forward? How many people were struggling with their sleep patterns into the following week and perhaps beyond?

The proponents of making daylight saving time permanent will point to the fact that, by doing so, sunshine will be more prevalent later in the day during fall and winter months. Instead of watching the sun set before 5 p.m., it would still be light out at 6 or even 7 p.m. most days. That would, supporters claim, provide more time for activities outside, reduce crime, and perhaps even help with levels of depression during the colder months.

Yet, there are real concerns.

“Going to daylight saving time year-round is a really bad idea. If we do this, it’s essentially dosing the entire United States with jet lag — permanent jet lag.”

That’s a quote from Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine who is a neurologist at the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. In a recent Washington Post article, he offered a warning of what permanent daylight saving time could mean. While many focus on the benefits of more sunshine later in the day, Watson worries about the impact of less sunshine early in the morning.

According to the doctor, sunshine helps trigger certain hormones in the human body that help fuel a person for activities throughout the day. Delay when people first experience that sunshine and you’ll delay that “jumpstart” for the human body. On the back end, the later the sun goes down, the harder it will be for people to fall asleep on a normal routine.

There’s also safety concerns when it comes to children attending school. If daylight saving time were to become permanent, many local students would be asked to stand outside to wait for their buses in the dark. The last time the U.S. attempted to do away with standard time in favor of daylight saving — 1974-75 — it was largely the opposition of parents who forced the clocks, figuratively and literally, to be turned back.

Would the solution be to alter school start times to now coincide with the later arrival of the sun during fall and winter months? No doubt some would welcome such a change, as debate in educational circles has raged for years over school start times. But that conversation brings with it a whole host of other considerations besides just how dark it may be at the bus stop.

There appears to be considerable momentum for this change at the moment and, if it passes, we will adapt. We always do. But a word of warning: Nothing comes without drawbacks. Not even our “spring forward.”



 

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