We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. Why trust us?

Here's Why We Have Daylight Saving Time and How It Started

We spring forward and fall back, but why?

daylight saving time  - Close-Up Of Hand Holding Alarm Clock Against White Wall
Ismail Sadiron / EyeEmGetty Images

When you find yourself yawning at your desk on Monday, March 9 after losing an hour of precious shut-eye on Sunday evening, you may wonder why we have Daylight Saving Time in the first place. Believe it or not, we have Benjamin Franklin to blame. Yes, the founding father who's famous for that whole flying a kite in a lightning storm incident, not to mention the invention of the lightning rod, also came up with the idea of resetting clocks in order to conserve energy, according to David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.

Among his many maxims, Franklin also coined the phrase, "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Whether the two have anything in common is apparently lost to history. He proposed the idea in one of his signature letters, this time to the Journal of Paris, in 1784. But the journal must not have taken the idea to heart, because the practice didn't actually begin until about a century later.

Daylight Saving Time was never for farmers.

Germany became the first country to implement Daylight Saving Time in May 1916, ostensibly as a way to conserve fuel during World War I. The rest of Europe followed shortly, and the United States hopped on board in 1918. But even though many of us have heard it started to help farmers who wanted to use the extra hour in the fields, the opposite is actually true.

According to Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, farmers actually lobbied vocally against the practice. It caused them to lose an extra hour of light in the morning, meaning they had to rush their crops to market. And for dairy farmers, the time change throws off the cows, too. Because farmers so loudly opposed the shift, they became associated with it in the public memory, but over time, our memory of their collective position totally changed. Sorry, agriculture fam.

Woodrow Wilson abolished it at one point.

President Woodrow Wilson wanted to keep Daylight Saving Time after the first world war ended, arguing the extra light would conserve energy. But those same farmers gave a resounding "please no," and he abolished it as a result. When World War II began, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt re-established it, this time dubbing the change "War Time."

But when that war ended, the time change stuck. Because there weren't yet any national regulations, each municipality could set their own rules. That led to a chaotic free-for-all, not to mention (we imagine) a lot of people running late for their appointments when they inadvertently crossed into random new time zones. That's why Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, requiring all states that observed it to synchronize their watches, as it were. States can opt out, and some do: According to the Department of Transportation, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona don't recognize it.

Daylight Saving Time doesn't actually save energy.

According to a report for Congress on the energy impact of extending Daylight Saving Time by four weeks, the time change saved about 0.03% of the country's total electricity use and about half a percent of total energy consumption per day during the four weeks Congress extended Daylight Saving Time in 2007. That said, lightbulbs and other commonly used electric devices have only become more energy-efficient over the years, which makes that saving negligible at best. And if people run more electricity-sucking air conditioners during those sultry, sunny summer evenings, they may eat the discrepancy right up.

This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

It also doesn't make us feel better.

An extra dose of Vitamin D from another hour of evening sunlight has to be good for us, right? Not so fast. Doctors report a 24% spike in patients reporting heart attacks each time the clock springs forward. The incidence of workplace injuries also rises on the day after the clocks change, as employees get an average of 40 fewer minutes less sleep the night before. And studies have even shown that Daylight Saving Time can lead to a brief increase in depressive episodes. More car crashes, headaches, and grouchy attitudes also arise (as you've probably noticed at the water cooler). So at least at first, Daylight Saving Time is actively not great for us.

Why do we still have it, then?

That's a good question. Fewer than 40% of the world's countries observe daylight saving time, and states like California, Florida, and Montana have all petitioned to become exempt. But while we do have it, most of us take advantage of the increase in daylight in the evenings. Think weekday grilling out for dinner, getting the chance to actually see the sun after working your 9–5(ish), and letting the kids play outside until bedtime. After the initial adjustment, we can all use the chance to get a little more sunshine. With sunblock, of course.

For can't-miss news, expert beauty advice, genius home solutions, delicious recipes, and lots more, sign up for the Good Housekeeping newsletter.


This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Life