Top 10 Facts You Didn't Know About Daylight Saving Time

As (most) of humanity grudgingly springs forward, here’s what you may or may not know about Daylight Saving Time

This Sunday at 2 a.m. will be the worst moment of my life. I jest, I jest, I’m just being dramatic. But with more of us hard-working humans getting less and less sleep lately, every hour counts, right? Here’s what you (probably) didn’t know about the annual nightmare that is Daylight Saving Time.

1. Yes, you’re supposed to drop the “s.” The “saving” is singular.

2. What are we saving, exactly? While Europe and most of North America and the United States (::shakes fist at Arizona::) engage in the practice of setting clocks forward by one hour, the vast majority of the planet does not (or has accepted a permanent time, at least — see #7). So why do we? As the Earth moves farther from the sun in spring and summer — and because its axial tilt exposes more of the northern latitudes toward the sun during this time — the days lengthen for us, meaning more hours of sunlight are available. We don’t want to waste those precious sunny hours stuck indoors at our nine-to-five jobs, so by advancing our clocks in the spring, we’re allowing ourselves to enjoy more sunlight after work.

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3. And by “enjoy,” I mean, “play golf,” specifically. William Willett, Great Britain’s biggest advocate for Summer Time (that’s their version of DST across the pond), published a paper in 1907 lamenting what he called “the waste of daylight.” Apparently, he hated having to wrap up his afternoon rounds early due to a setting sun, and (there was no way he was waking up earlier to play), so he advocated for the change of time. Thanks, Will!


Related: Our Golf Guide


4. Of course, Benjamin Franklin is generally credited with being the first to suggest such an idea. In his 1784 essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” the noted inventor jokingly suggests we’d save a hell of a lot of candle wax if we just fired cannons and rang church bells to wake up the masses. That said…

5. Making use of longer hours has health and economic benefits. We expose ourselves to more vitamin D, for instance. We also decrease the amount of energy (think lighting and heating) we use by taking advantage of the sunshine. At least, that’s what proponents of Daylight Saving Time say. (The actual amount of energy saved is largely debated.)

6. Critics, however, will argue that the practice tinkers too much with our natural circadian rhythms; that it increases our risk of heart attacks by 10 percent; and, quite simply, it’s just too damn confusing.

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Related: How much sleep should you be getting?


7. Countries closer to the poles and the equator, respectively, either experience extreme or few shifts in sunlight throughout the year, so Daylight Saving Time doesn’t help them out too much. (No golf for you, Russia!) Instead, countries like Argentina and Iceland have adopted permanent daylight saving time, in which they observe “summer” hours all year. Russia tried this for a few years, but switched to a permanent standard time (“winter hours”) in 2014 because it caused late sunrises in winter. Don’t even get me started on British Double Summer Time.


Related: View a full list of daylight saving time by country


8. If you feel that Daylight Saving Time begins earlier and earlier each year, you’re kind of right. Technically, Daylight Saving Time is not mandatory for any of the 50 states, but if they do choose to observe the practice, they must follow the federal laws regarding the start and end dates — and those have jumped all over the place. Daylight Saving Time used to begin on the first Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October; now it’s observed the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November, effectively forcing us to endure one extra month of “summer” hours.

Anchorman noooo

9. Daylight Saving Time is a crime-stopper. On September 5, 1999, Palestinian terrorists planned an attack on two busloads of people in Jerusalem. Fortunately, Israel had just switched back to standard time, while the terrorists — who refused “Zionist” practices — still observed Daylight Saving Time. The bombs ended up exploding an hour early, in transport, killing the three terrorists.

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10. Whether you’re a fan of Daylight Saving Time or you completely despise it, rest assured, it’s one of the first signs that spring is near — and we all just got one hour closer to it. Rejoice!

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