Daylight savings time was first implemented to conserve energy during World War I as it would ensure people would use less electricity. Since then, the United States has been switching its clocks back and forth by one hour twice a year.
Changing our clocks one hour ahead in March (spring ahead), and one hour backward in November (fall back) for the last century has disoriented people for long enough and even led to the Senate recently unanimously passing the Sunshine Protection Act on March 15. This bipartisan bill would make daylight savings time permanent, allowing us to enjoy more daylight and its many consequential benefits.
The bill still needs to be passed by the House and signed by President Joe Biden, and if approved, it wouldn’t take effect until November 2023. However, several senators like Sen. Patty Murray said Americans would only benefit from the Sunshine Protection Act, as there would be less seasonal and general depression, as well as less disruption to our overall lives.
According to Susan Albers, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic, seasonal depression, formally known as seasonal affective disorder, is usually caused by changes to our circadian rhythm or internal natural clock that runs our sleep, mood and appetite. This has been found to be greatly influenced by daylight savings time changes in the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight.
I’ve heard from friends and seen on social media that seasonal depression has been prevalent for years. A 2017 study from Epidemiology researched 185,419 hospital contacts for unipolar depression and found that the transition from daylight savings time to standard time was associated with an 11% increase in the incidence rate of unipolar depressive episodes.
Due to less exposure to sunlight or vitamin D during these months, many people are more prone to experience seasonal depression as a result of the clocks going back an hour in the fall. Although I have never personally experienced major symptoms of seasonal depression, I wholeheartedly agree with most of the population that there’s something upsetting about the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. rather than 8:30 p.m.
The primary arguments for the preservation of daylight savings time are that it has helped conserve a substantial amount of energy. According to a 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Energy, it saves about 0.5% of total energy every day. While this number is not very significant, it at least shows that we do not gain anything economically by falling back an hour in the fall.
Every year the hassle and negative side effects of switching our clocks continues to be a point of conversation, but nothing has ever been done to change it until now. Particularly in college, students tend to feel there is something brighter figuratively and literally about the spring semester in comparison to the later part of the fall semester. The positive effects this bill could have on our mental health would be tremendous. Just imagine — we would be able to enjoy sitting in the sun at the Court of North Carolina or Lake Raleigh all year long, instead of just during one half of the year.
From the successful passing of the Sunshine Protection Act by a unanimous vote in the Senate, I am hopeful it will be fully approved. I am excited to see the positive impact the bill will have on people and finally enjoy maximum daylight year round.