Daylight Savings Bill

Amarah Ennis | Staff Writer

Students across campus—and the country—woke up on March 13 to find that they had lost an hour of precious sleep. The thief in question? Daylight Savings Time.

It’s a popularly disliked ritual: only 25% of people want to keep switching clocks biannually, according to a 2021 survey by the Associated Press. But Americans pushed their clocks forward into Daylight Savings Time (DST) that Sunday or, if they were awake at 2 a.m, watched as their phones and laptops automatically did so.

The switch seems purposeless now, but the reason daylight saving time was introduced and made law in 1918 was to help people make better use of their sunlight hours and decrease energy consumption, according to National Geographic. Moving the clock forward an hour ensures that people can be up and out of the house for longer after classes or work shifts.

Whether you’re a DST lover or hater, listen up: thanks to a bill unanimously passed in the Senate, Americans may never move their clocks back again. However, a sunshine-filled year may not be the future we want to live in.

The bill is called the Sunshine Protection Act and was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans.

According to an official press release from Rubio’s staff, the bill “reflects the Florida legislature’s 2018 enactment of year-round DST” and the similar legislation of 15 other states (not including Virginia). These states can’t adhere to year-round DST without the federal government’s approval, so the Sunshine Protection Act has to be passed for those state laws to take effect. If the bill does pass, though, it won’t just be those states; everyone will set their clocks forward and never go back.

Rubio has been promoting the bill on Twitter with the hashtag #LocktheClock, hoping to prevent springing forward or falling back and expand the eight-month DST period to the entire year.

“We don’t have to keep doing this stupidity anymore. Why we would enshrine this in our laws and keep it for so long is beyond me,” he said on March 15 on the Senate floor.

In theory, students should be celebrating this bill. Even during the cold fall and winter months, they’ll still have plenty of daylight for hanging out with friends or walking across the pedestrian bridge behind campus to eat at a local restaurant.

Some bill supporters have even touted the health benefits of staying in DST.

“When we do this jumping back and forth, heart attacks go up. Strokes go up. Traffic accidents go up. Even seasonal depression goes up,” said Sen. Cory Booker, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, on his Tik Tok account. “This is about our well-being.”

It’s true that the switching of the clocks back and forth has been studied and generally agreed upon to cause problems with cardiovascular health and even increase the risk of cancer. However, as a sleep expert told the Boston Globe, DST is not the time zone to which we should commit.

“In their zeal to prevent the annual switch, the Senate has unfortunately chosen the wrong time to stabilize onto,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “What the Senate passed yesterday would require all Americans to start their work and school an hour earlier than they usually do, and that’s particularly difficult to do in the winter, when the sun is rising later.”

A 2018 study from scientists in the European Union, published in the Springer Internal and Emergency Medicine journal, found that this problem with getting up while it’s dark has more to do with the human body than with laziness. 

The body runs on a circadian rhythm—defined by the National Institute of Health as an internal 24-hour clock that affects digestive, hormonal, and sleep systems. This rhythm is mainly controlled by light and resets with sunrise light. If students wake up and are meant to be out of bed, learning and working while the sun is still below the horizon for another hour or more, it could have severe consequences for their academic performance and mental health.

Peggy Peebles, the coordinator of clinical experiences for Hampton’s Education Department, said that the bill most negatively affects elementary school students, who need the hours of daylight the most.

“The research shows that [elementary school] kids learn better in the morning, and function better in the morning. Middle and high school kids work better in the mid-morning, like around 10 or 11 [a.m.],” she said. “I think that we need to focus more on the elementary kids … if you establish a strong foundation, whatever happens in middle and high school academically will be okay.”

That’s elementary school, but would it be better for college students to have more sunlight in the mornings or the evenings? Peebles said it didn’t make a difference for Hampton’s students’ class attendance.

“Doesn’t matter whether it’s morning or afternoon,” she said, “they still don’t do it!”

It’s important to note that America has already tried yearlong DST. The government attempted twice to adhere to permanent daylight saving: once before WWII and in the 1970s, as the solution to an ongoing energy crisis. In the experiment under Nixon, the federal government planned to make daylight saving time permanent for two years.

As the New York Times reported in 1974, the approval rating for this law was nearly 80% when it was introduced and passed. However, that percentage dropped to almost 40% only three months later. People hated permanent daylight saving time. 

The public perceived an increase in traffic accidents due to the morning darkness, and parents didn’t like sending their children out when the sun hadn’t risen yet. Some schools even delayed start times until the sun had come up, eliminating the supposed after-school benefits of permanent DST while maintaining all sleep-related issues. Not even a year passed before standard time was reinstated, and Americans were back to switching their clocks forwards and backward twice a year.

The Sunshine Protection Bill is currently stalling in the house. According to The Hill, many House representatives want to table this issue to work on the war in Ukraine. Others are hearing the complaints from their voters and beginning to doubt the benefits touted by the bill’s Senate support.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about this from my constituents recently, because we’re in Seattle and it is so dark,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, “and so if we make daylight saving permanent, it’s gonna be dark until nine o’clock in the morning.”

Another House representative, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, said that the longer the bill idles in the house, the less likely it is to be passed—not that that’s a bad thing.

“Now what will happen is you’ll get all of this outpouring of studies and people say, ‘Yeah, we agree you shouldn’t change twice a year, but what is it, standard time or daylight time?’ And then you get the farm bureaus and the parents associations,” he said. “It’ll get more controversial the longer it goes.”

Peggy Peebles agreed with much of the public opinion on Twitter that it will be difficult to definitively choose a one-time zone.

“It’s like you’ve got to give up something one way or the other,” she said. “It’s a catch-22.”

Until Congress can come to a consensus, either way, we’ll have to keep making the switch—so enjoy your extra daylight hour now, and look forward to getting your extra hour of rest back on November 4.

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