This week, the Florida Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, a proposal for the state to stay in daylight saving time all year round. That’s not happening because the federal government controls time, but the people of Florida have the right idea. Daylight saving time begins this Sunday, but it should last in perpetuity, allowing us to live in a world of evening light.
It’s easy to complain about losing an hour of sleep, and daylight saving is not popular. One 2014 poll found that just 33 percent of people see the point of it, and there have been proposals in Europe to do away with the switch entirely. As my own editor Elizabeth Lopatto has argued, research seems to back this up. Lost sleep is a genuine problem and, more concerningly, some studies suggest that “springing forward” can cause more car crashes.
But hear me out. People don’t hate daylight saving time. Daylight saving doesn’t kill. The transition to daylight saving kills. The transition is what we should do away with. The risk of lost sleep and dangerous driving increases when our fragile bodies get used to the schedule, and then it goes back to normal. To get rid of the transition, one of the time zones has to go. And we should keep daylight saving time: a situation that leaves us with longer, safer, and more relaxing days.
So, why have perpetual daylight saving instead of perpetual standard time? Some have argued in favor because of energy savings since we don’t need to turn on the lights as early at night. (After all, that’s why we started daylight saving time back in 1918.) The savings are small, though, and daylight saving time can increase demand for heating and cooling.
No, the main advantage of perpetual daylight saving is the increased quality of life. Darkness in the evening is far worse than darkness in the morning, and I say this as a morning person who routinely wakes up before 6AM. Our bodies have natural biological rhythms, or chronotypes, that are extremely difficult to change. Most of us naturally want to sleep from about 11PM to 7AM, but up to 40 percent of us don’t fit into that mold. One small study of the distribution of chronotypes found that about 18 percent were morning people, so, the type of folks who’ll be sad that it’s darker when they’re up and ready to work. However, 27 percent are evening types, and these are the people who will benefit from perpetual daylight saving. Plus, night owls are already unfairly stigmatized; at least we can give them this.
I’m no fan of working in the dark, but mornings are typically a quiet, contemplative time to work on other projects. In the morning, you head to work and so, frankly, for most people, there’s a ceiling on how good mornings can get anyway. They’re not the hub of your social day.
Evenings are. For most people, evenings are when we unwind and see friends, or exercise, and early darkness makes this far less appealing. Meeting a friend for a 7PM meal in pitch-darkness is unpleasant. When it’s dark, we get sluggish, we want to go home and sleep. The evening hours are wasted and, for most of us, the evening hours are far more important for hobbies or socialization.
Plus, daylight saving is safer. More people, including children, have evening events than morning events. Long-lasting light makes it safer for runners and cyclists, or kids on play dates, whereas earlier sunset leads to more street crime.
This issue has been around for a long time. It’s common for states to pass propositions suggesting tweaks — in addition to Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island have also tried to stop the switching. There’s not much the states can do until the federal government takes notice. But when it does, the choice is clear. Let light triumph over darkness.