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Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time, Anyway?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Ah, the time change is upon us and we'll soon be "springing ahead". If you’re sleep deprived like me, turning the clock ahead for Daylight Saving Time means losing yet another hour of precious sleep. But why do we even have Daylight Saving Time, anyway?

First things first....Is it Daylight Savings Time or Daylight Saving Time?

It’s Daylight Saving Time folks. (DST) is often (incorrectly) referred to as “Daylight Savings,” with an “s” at the end. You may have also seen “Daylight-Saving Time” or even “Summer Time”.

One hour ahead (or behind) what?

For DST, clocks are set ahead of (or behind) standard time - Standard time being the local time in a country/region when not on DST. When we go off of DST in the fall, we turn the clocks back one hour. I remember it as spring ahead and fall behind.

Who Invented DST?

Well, you can blame that on two guys - New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson and British builder William Willett. Back in 1895, Hudson proposed a 2-hour shift forward in October and a 2-hour shift back in March. Yeah, so that didn’t happen.

Then, in 1905, Willett came along with the idea of setting the clocks ahead 20 minutes every Sunday in April, then changing them back the same amount on every Sundays in September. That was WAAAY too complicated!

Eventually, Canada was ahead of the curve and was the first country to use DST in 1908 (in Thunder Bay, Ontario specifically), beating out Germany and Austria who started in 1916. United Kingdom, France and others followed suit, but after World War I, most went back to standard time. DST didn’t surface again in Europe until World War II.

Myth buster

Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin did not invent DST. Sure, he tossed the idea out there in 1784, but he meant it as a joke people! He was basically goofing on the French! He suggested that Parisians could save on candle usage if they just got up earlier.

Today, more than 70 countries use DST, but when it starts and ends depends on the country. When I used to travel back and forth between the U.S. and France, it was always a challenge to remember when each country went on, or off, DST. Anyway, here’s a list of what countries change and when.

Okay, so why do we have it again?

It’s really so that our winter days are shorter and our summer days are longer. There’s one 23-hour day in late winter or early spring and one 25-hour day in the fall.

Uh, and why is that important?

Well, I guess it depends on where you live. In industrialized societies, work is generally clock-based, so work schedules don’t really change throughout the year, but in agricultural-based societies, daylight essentially dictates working hours. And, even if you don’t live in an agrarian society, those who are pro-DST maintain that it helps decrease energy consumption because you’re reducing your need for heating and lighting. Those who are anti-DST, say, yeah, energy savings – not so much. Suffice it to say, I found a lot of controversy doing my research on DST.

But wait, there’s more...

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established a uniform Daylight Saving Time throughout the US.

And in case you’re wondering...

In the U.S., Arizona (except for the Navajo, who observe daylight saving time on tribal lands), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands don’t observe DST.

So now you know why we have Daylight Saving Time! Me? I just want some sleep...


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