Today begins the season of Daylight Wasting Time which wastes daylight for most Americans. The median American gets out of bed a little after 6:30AM and goes to bed around 11PM according to Jawbone’s sleep sensors.
Daylight Saving Time extends daylight into the evening hours when nearly EVERYONE is awake and more people have time to be outside after work. Daylight Wasting Time cuts the useful evening hours of daylight and adds much less useful daylight in the early morning hours when the vast majority of Americans are still either asleep or inside their homes getting ready for the day with all their lights on regardless of how much sunlight is outside. Only about 29% of Americans gets up by 6 AM.
This is a bad bargain. We should stick with Daylight Saving Time all year round.
Daylight Saving Time was a great idea because it helped everyone coordinate their schedules to waste less daylight sleeping. It would have been impossible to order everyone to get up an hour earlier to use daylight more efficiently, so the government moved the clock forward which caused the same effect. That was a tricky feat of social engineering. This map of Jawbone data shows that arbitrary time systems have a big impact on sleep patterns.
But switching back to Daylight Wasting Time every year in the fall is a terrible mistake. Joseph Stromberg wrote an excellent survey of the harms of switching back:
- It was imposed on us to save energy. It failed.
- It increases traffic deaths.
- Contrary to the myth that it was invented to help farmers, it hurts them, particularly the dairy industry.
- The corporate lobby is the real force behind Daylight Savings Time because Daylight Wasting Time hurts sales of everything from Halloween candy and barbecue grills to baseball tickets and golf balls.
- Daylight Wasting Time increases depression due to less light and exercise.
- Did I mention that it reduces exercise?
- It reduces worker productivity.
- It even increases heart attacks!
The New York Times tried to host an online debate over whether or not to abolish that annual switch to Daylight Wasting Time and so they rounded up a bunch of researchers who have examined its costs and benefits. It wasn’t much of a “debate” because they all wanted to abolish it. The only voice the New York Times found to argue in favor of the annual switch was a novelist who thought that it is neat because it forces us to “change our perspective” twice a year.
Cartographer Andy Woodruff argues that we should abolish Daylight Saving Time and permanently keep our clocks fixed in Daylight Wasting Time because he prioritizes having sunrises before 7:00 AM:
I agree that abolishing Daylight Saving Time is better than switching back and forth, but better yet would be to abolish Daylight Wasting Time and keep Daylight Saving Time instead. One problem with Woodruff’s scheme is that sunrise isn’t the same thing as first light. If we switch the criteria to first light at 7:00 AM, then always observing Daylight Saving Time is far superior to always observing Daylight Wasting Time in Woodruff’s scheme. Unfortunately, morning people like Woodruff tend to rule American culture and discriminate against night owls. This injustice is ultimately why we continue to observe Daylight Wasting Time. The minority of Americans who are early to bed and early to rise have traditionally dominated over the majority of Americans who get up later. Those early risers like to have more daylight all to themselves before the rest of us get up, and that is the real reason why we have daylight wasting time. It literally has zero other benefits for anyone.
This is not inevitable. America has changed our system numerous times, most recently in 2007 when it was extended by a month. That cost the airlines $147 million to coordinate their schedules with the rest of the world because most countries don’t have Daylight Wasting Time and it takes a lot of work to coordinate changing schedules.
This is an ongoing problem. The countries that use some kind of Daylight Wasting system don’t change their clocks on the same schedule and all those international time changes always cost money and errors every year. Below is the Wikipedia map of the countries that do not have any kind of Daylight Wasting Time system marked in either dark or light gray. That is much more civilized.
The globe is about to get much more civilized because most of the countries with Daylight Wasting Time are located in Western Europe and the EU is drafting legislation to abolish it because a recent poll found that that is what 80% of their citizens want.
The most harmful part of this system is the ridiculous ritual of changing our clocks twice a year. That switch kills people and measurably reduces productivity. The morning people have always dominated the debate over time and they would prefer to keep Daylight Wasting Time year round so that they can have more daylight at their favorite time of the day — in the morning before everyone else is out and about. Fine. If we can’t save daylight all year round, then I’d settle for making Daylight Wasting Time permanent, but it would be best to abolish Daylight Wasting Time.