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Do the Electricity Savings Outweigh the Sleep Lost from Daylight Saving Time

March 13, 2018
by dmirza

daylight saving timeDaylight Saving Time (DST) begins March 11th, at the beginning of National Sleep Awareness Week. Some people will see the irony in that being that we feel like we lose an hour of sleep when we set our clocks an hour ahead. Some people like having an hour more of light at the end of the day rather than at the beginning, and we actually reap some electricity benefits from this, but is it worth the change in our sleep patterns? And how does Daylight Saving Time save electricity?

Origins of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time is often credited to Benjamin Franklin, but he never actually introduced the idea. An entomologist in New Zealand first proposed it in 1895, but Germany was the first country to implement it in 1916 to help conserve resources. The United States first used it toward the end of World War I and again during World War II, but until 1966, there was no law governing it. There have been a lot of arguments for and against DST, so what are we to believe?

Energy Savings

The US Department of Energy conducted a study in 2008 to determine the electricity savings resulting from the extension of DST that was implemented in 2005. Their study revealed that the four extra weeks of DST saved the US about 0.5% in total electricity per day. Seems hardly worth it, right? But that half percent each day adds up to 1.3 billion kilowatt hours, which could power more than 100,000 homes for a whole year.

By extending the daylight hours later in the evening, we use lights less and often spend more time outdoors. This leads to a reduction in energy usage. Some argue that it increases the amount of air conditioner use, thus overshadowing the savings, but it can vary from family to family, home to home.

Health Effects

Our bodies follow a natural circadian rhythm that is different for each person. By jumping the clock forward by an hour, we throw it off pretty radically. It may only take a few days for our bodies to readjust, but it can be a big strain on our bodies. Come fall, with the extra hour of sleep, our bodies adjust much more easily, because humans naturally want an extra 20-30 min of sleep each morning, according to Dr. David Glass. In the spring, we lose that extra 20-30 min our bodies desire by shaving an hour off our sleep. And, more often than not, people stay up later on Saturday nights in general. When DST kicks on Sunday morning, we get out of sorts.

DST Preparation

So how can we prepare ourselves for the lost hour of sleep? For the week leading up to DST, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day. By the time the weekend comes, you’ll have trained yourself to get up an hour and 15 minutes earlier. On Saturday, get some mid-day exercise in. Exercise helps tire us out naturally and as the day goes on, we’ll feel sleepier. Saturday night, go to bed an hour before you typically would and Sunday morning get up with your alarm. Sleeping in will defeat the purpose of the adjustment, making it harder for your body to accept the new wake-up time.

Source 1, Source 2

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