Short post, short on time. I'll have more later, but wanted to be sure you all saw this excellent report from the Daily Show:
Short post, short on time. I'll have more later, but wanted to be sure you all saw this excellent report from the Daily Show:
Editor's Note: I always love running guest posts, and especially love them when written by my son! Truth be told, this started out as a class assignment, but when he told me he linked to my site from his paper, I had to read it, and I love it. (Proud dad, etc.)
And by the way, this is becoming a key part of the #LockTheClock movement: One of the last arguments made against getting rid of clock changing is that we shouldn't force students to go to school in the dark. My response has always been the same: They are already mostly going to school in the dark in rural areas and in the northernmost parts of the country, and it's time to adjust the start times, especially for high schools. That's why I say we should have a year-long phase-in time for fixing DST so that schools can look at what the clock time will be relative to the sun time for the next school year, and make adjustments that are right for their districts.
In some places, that may mean high school starts at 9:30 or even 10 a.m. Do you know one teenager who would object to that?
Anyway, here's that post:
Through no fault of their own, teens are sleep deprived.
The current education system in the US is not set up for the success of teens. Despite the plethora of evidence in support of later start time, there has not yet been the shift. While there are obstacles to the move, there is nothing that is big enough to outweigh the clear benefits of a later start. If the US wants to have successful teens, it needs to shift its school start times to later in the day.
Teens need sleep, and lots of it, if they want to function at a normal or excellent level. In order for teens to get this sleep, they need to sleep in until later in the day. Teens don’t start secreting melatonin until, on average, 10:45 p.m. Additionally, teens don’t stop those secretions until eight in the morning. When combined this is a brutal double punch that prevents teens from going to bed early, and makes it difficult to wake up in the morning. The obvious solution here is not to change biology, but instead to accommodate for it by delaying school start times.
The consequences of teens not getting enough sleep are drastic. Teens are more likely to use cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. Teenage depression is shown to be closely tied to the amount of sleep that individuals get. In the age of higher than ever rates of depression, the only logical action seems to be taking steps to reduce this statistic. Additionally, the highest killer of teens, car crashes, is only aided and abetted by sleep deprived drivers; yet another example of avoidable suffering.
To be fair, there are arguments for maintaining the current system. New start times would require a reworking of many transportation patterns. While this may have slight initial challenges, it is nothing that can’t be worked around. Additionally, many teenagers are responsible for getting themselves to school and would appreciate the later start. Despite the argument that teens would simply stay up later, the research finds something different. Some parents and professionals worry that a later ending time would leave students too worn out for their sports, arts, and other activities. In truth, however, the well rested students would train harder, think more creatively, and excel throughout the day. While the points exist against later start times, the reality is, in fact, in support of the pushback.
A later start time would also help solve the problem of Daylight Saving Time. One frequent argument for not moving into year-round daylight time is that it would force students into traveling to school while in the dark. Later start times would fix this, giving not only the benefits from the later start, but the benefits from permanent DST. The shift to later start times could be the event that triggers the move, or vice versa. Either way, everyone comes out on top.
Teens need sleep, it’s about time they were given it. Moving the school day later saves lives, improves performance, and generally improves life for the world's future leaders.
This decade has started out with news that’s really difficult for people all around the world.
And yet, the world keeps turning. The sun keeps rising and setting, and clocks keep ticking, or doing whatever the equivalent of ticking is in the digital world.
I've been watching this DST issue for more than five years now, and I can tell you that this year I’m seeing a level of press interest, proposed legislation, and viewership to this blog that's off the charts. I always see a big bump right around the DST clock changes, but in 2020 I’m seeing that kind of interest in January.
I have yet to write about my appearance late last year at a conference put on by the National Conference of State Legislators.
The panel discussion itself wasn’t remarkable to close readers of this blog. Calvin Schermerhorn, a historian, and Ray Ward, a state legislator from Utah, and I talked about the convoluted path that got us here, and the now certainty that this historical oddity will soon go the way of, say, a ban on women voting.
Perhaps what was most remarkable was the fact that we were on the agenda. This was a substantial, policy-based group gathering to discuss issues related to health care, transportation, economic development, etc. And the issue of Daylight Saving Time fit in perfectly. Even a couple of years ago there’s no way a body like the National Conference of State Legislators would hold a session on this topic.
And the conversation wasn’t hypothetical, and it wasn’t the kind of conversation I had all the time in the last decade where people wondered if this was an issue at all. Not one person said, “Why are we even talking about this when there’s so many more important things to talk about?” I used to get that all the time.
No, the conversation was tactical.
There are no perfect answers to any of those questions by the way. My answer in nearly all cases is that legislators could probably learn best from the bills that have passed already, like these:
And in Massachusetts, the state passed a bill to come up with a study committee, and that committee recommended strongly that the state #LockTheClock.
More than 40 states heard bills last year, and six passed something. How many will pass a bill this year? My guess is double last year, plus one. That will be 13.
So that means we’ll go from 1 in 2018 to 6 in 2019 to 13 in 2020 for a goal of 20 by 2020!
(How’s that for a catchy goal?)
Stay tuned to this site, and be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you get all the news on our march toward 20 by 2020.
The newsletter comes at most once a month (and it hasn't even been that of late) so don’t worry, it won’t jam up your inbox.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!
As part of what I do trying to #LockTheClock, I sometimes talk to legislators or the staff of legislators. It doesn't take much time, and it always seems to be appreciated, so I’m happy to do it.
A couple of recent conversations have had me run into an interesting problem.
To get why it’s interesting, though, a bit of background:
Bay State legislators, with the skillful prompting of extraordinary citizen leadership, are considering a move to Permanent Daylight Saving Time.
Close readers of this blog know, however, that such a move isn't possible under the current law. The only thing allowed is staying in Standard Time. That’s not what they want, however, and it makes sense for that state as it is so far east in the Eastern Time Zone. Sunset will come at 4:15 on December 21st in Boston, more than an hour earlier than in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Cincinnati and other big cities on the western side of that time zone.
So the plan now is for Massachusetts to move one time zone to the east, to the Atlantic Time Zone, and then stay on Standard Time year round. (That will be the same to them as Permanent DST.)
That clever approach, by the way, first came not from New England, but from a legislator from New Mexico. He hasn't been able to get his bill passed yet, something I've written about at length.
And it’s not law yet in Massachusetts yet either, but the signs all look good.
So, that's what's prompted some of those interesting conversations.
What if, for example, the states in the Pacific Time Zone took the same approach? Oregon and Washington have already passed laws saying that if California goes into permanent DST, they will, too.
So I talked to some staff members of legislators in California. They were bummed because they know that they can only switch to permanent Standard Time. I then told them about the Massachusetts approach, and their ears picked up.
Until the point we figured out an issue with that approach: California would be moving into the Mountain Time Zone.
It's easy for Bay Staters to think of themselves in the Atlantic time zone. It juts out into the Atlantic, and the identity of the state is tied to the ocean. Heck, there’s a sculpture of a cod in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
And while California has some mountains, the idea of being in the Mountain Time Zone may be the thing that keeps that state from trying this innovative solution.
Same for, say, Illinois. Chicago thinks of itself as kind of the capital of the Central Time Zone. Could legislators there swallow their egos and move to the Eastern Time Zone?
Or what if West Virginia wants to move to permanent DST? No part of that state touches the Atlantic, would it be OK being in the Atlantic Time Zone?
Clearly, the best answer here is if Congress would take action to:
But they may not do that if states don’t take action first. Seven states have now passed some form of law saying they want the status quo to change. Will Congress wait until half have passed something? Two-thirds? All of them? At what point will Washington decide to lead instead of follow?
Typically in the week after the “Fall Back” change interest in DST drops off a cliff. People are just too depressed coming home from work in the dark, so they plop on the couch and start watching TV. (eds. note: Is this a story?) With all that, Halloween behind us, lots of work to do and the holidays barreling toward us, nobody is able to care enough to even Google DST and figure out what to do.
But nearly a full week after the change, I just heard what was probably the most nuanced and spot-on view of the politics surrounding Daylight Saving Time, maybe ever.
Here it is. The whole show is funny, but the DST bit starts about 53:30.
Several little things here:
But the best part was the way that Jon basically walked all of us through his own evolution. He started out thinking that we should all just do what he would like the best, but he studied it and came up with some nuance, which is rare in the world of politics.
And he came so so close to the right solution, but didn't quite get all the way.
Jon, we haven't met, but allow me to pitch in, if you will.
You started out thinking that we should all just go to permanent DST. You pointed out, correctly, that the most deadly part of the whole DST thing is the “Spring Forward” change, when heart attacks spike. (Traffic accidents, strokes, workplace accidents, too, but just the heart attack thing is plenty.)
And you point out that the fall change plunges many of us into a forced “Well of depression.”
But then you go into a discussion of if it's better for states to be in Standard Time or Daylight Saving Time.
The evolution you made was a great one, but you didn't address, at least directly, the first issue, the one about not making the switch twice a year.
What we need to do is first say that we won't be switching the clocks. Hence the hashtag: #LockTheClock.
And then we should do exactly what you say, and let the states decide. You are right, this is actually an instance of non-racist states rights.
If we do it your way—some states on Standard, some states on DST, some still switching—we end up with a confused patchwork of states that will make everyone a little crazy. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was written to clean up just that exact problem.
Luckily, there is a solution, and I'm sort of surprised you didn't mention it given how much research you clearly did.
The solution comes to us from Europe, where the European Union made the decision to end the clock changing in 2021, and gave the member countries up until then to figure out which time zone they want to be in permanently.
If we did that we would:
As a bonus, that will give everyone some time to figure out the school start times and all the rest of the ancillary issues.
So, Jon, great work, and now just one more step to make in your evolution on this issue and you'll be at the one sane place that could actually happen.
I’m hoping that with that one more step you will—quoting your mission statement— “decide that you want to help fix this mess too.”
But overall, thanks so much for your rant. It was really great and will advance the conversation a lot.
The issue of fixing Daylight Saving Time is a deadly serious public health issue.
But I get that it's also funny, and perfect for some online mockery.
Also, some of my most popular posts have been my collections of funny “Fall Back” memes, funny “Spring Forward” memes, and then an updated set of DST memes and videos, and then another set this Spring.
The fun never ends, it seems, so here are some of the best #LockTheClock memes I've seen this year that were not in one of the previous collections:
Don't forget that tonight astronomers stop the rotation of the Earth for an hour for routine maintenance (mantle flushing, core convection rebalancing, Moho layer alignment, and so on). Things should be good as new when you wake up. The Sun might rise earlier but that's normal.— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) November 3, 2019
I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if an entire hour of time suddenly appeared. To offset this gained hour of sleep for the humans due to #DaylightSavingTime, I will cause then to lose an hour of sleep by knocking the lamp off the table. Sweet dreams, bipeds.— Thoughts Of Cat (@ThoughtsOfCat2) November 3, 2019
The Massachusetts legislature, what they call the “General Court,” is considering a fix to Daylight Saving Time. I couldn't be there on the day they first heard testimony, but I'm planning a trip to the Bay State at some point to talk to legislators about this bill.
In the meantime, here’s the official testimony I’m sending in:
Dear Sen. Keenan, Rep. Gregoire, Sen. Pacheco and members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight,
History doesn't repeat itself, the saying goes, but it does rhyme.
You are now considering a bill that would put Massachusetts squarely in the lead for the state taking the smartest and best step forward in fixing the twice-yearly madness of changing clocks into and out of Daylight Saving Time.
Of course it would be Massachusetts.
You see, we may never have had Daylight Saving Time if it hadn't been for a famed Massachusetts retailer, Lincoln Filene.
But he figured out that if he said that, or called it Buy More Stuff After Work Time, or Make More Money For Filene's Time, nobody would go for it. So he called it “Daylight Saving” time, and the name stuck.
He also realized that he needed a better reason to switch the clocks, so he and his PR team came up with the stuff about the farmers. That's why everyone thinks DST is for the farmers. It's not, and never has been. In fact, they've always hated it. The only reason we think it was for the farmers is one of the greatest PR con jobs of all time.
His plan didn't actually have time to work, WWI got in the way, and the Germans started “War Time” and the Brits followed suit, and then the U.S.
But the name that Filene came up with is the name we use, still. The leadership on this issue came from Beantown and the Bay State.
It's not the proudest moment for the state, but now you on this committee and eventually the entire great state of Massachusetts can take the lead in fixing the problem.
What, exactly, is the problem?
In short, Daylight Saving Time is a killer. The “Fall Back” change, annoying as it is, isn't actually all that bad. An extra hour of sleep is a good thing.
The “Spring Forward” change, however, is a legitimate public policy health issue.
Heart attacks go up. Strokes. Traffic accidents. Workplace accidents. All go up in those days after the government sneaks into our homes and sets the alarm clocks to go off an hour earlier than our bodies expect it.
A recent study from Germany makes it clear that all these factors combine to kill people at a rate that is no laughing matter. (All the research can be found here.)
Of course, many of you know about this because you voted to have Massachusetts study this issue. The report that came back was comprehensive, clear, and compelling. Anyone who reads it in full comes away with the same impression: this needs to get fixed, and the sooner the better.
The difficulty is the federal law, which right now would only allow you to go into standard time, aligning you with Chicago for about two-thirds of the year.
Luckily, your staff has done the homework, and figured out how to thread the needle of legislation to get done what you want to do. In short, you petition the federal government to move into the Atlantic Time Zone, and then petition to stay in Standard Time year-round.
That's a smart, legal solution, and you have the advantage of having a time zone to the east that doesn't sound bad for Bay Staters. (I'm currently working with legislators in California, and they are having a hard time with the idea of moving out of the Pacific time zone and into the Mountain time zone anchored in my home state of Colorado.)
So in conclusion, thank you very much for your time and attention, and thank you for correcting Massachusetts' ignoble place in DST history, and most of all thank you for doing your part to end the insanity of forcing your constituents to change clocks twice a year with no good reason at all.
First, welcome to our visitors from Europe, who had their “fall back” change this weekend. Did you enjoy that extra hour of sleep?
Sorry you’ll have to go home from work in the dark on Monday, but, you know... The FARMERS!
(Of course, the farmers in Europe, like the farmers here in the U.S., had nothing to do with making us switch to Daylight Saving Time or “Summertime” as you call it.)
And now we are in the weird part of the year where Europe and the U.S. are separated by an hour less than usual, something I talked about in March when I happened to be in Berlin for work.
I've added a new link to the navigation bar, and it goes to a page that answers the question I get most often from people: How can I help?
They always say that for every one person who writes in to ask, there are 100 others that think the question, but don't write in, so I wanted to make it easy.
If you are one of the 99, check out that page. The life you save may be your own!
I try to monitor the coverage about Daylight Saving Time. Usually the stories all look largely the same, but this year there's a new category of stories thanks to the progress that’s been made in state legislatures around the country.
You see, many states have passed bills saying that they want to #LockTheClock and stop changing for Daylight Saving Time. But all of them have some caveat. They either are waiting for nearby states to also pass bills, or they are waiting for enabling legislation from the federal government. Or there is some other exception.
In any event, readers and viewers who missed the fine print and just read a headline from months ago that said, ”Daylight Saving Time Bill Signed By Governor” are just now realizing that they still have to change the clocks this year.
And they aren't happy.
Hence the stories from all over the U.S. with a headline that is something like: “Yes, You Still Need To ‘Fall Back’ On Nov. 3.”
No fun for you, no fun for the reporters. Just no fun at all.
But change IS coming. The fact that those stories are needing to be written at all is a testament to the fact that bills are passing, even though the bills didn't bring immediate relief. Before even that didn't happen.
Change is coming, and even though this is an all-volunteer effort, this site is the place that will continue to keep you up to date and give you the best chance to be a part of the change that is coming because after five years of work on this, I’ve learned a lot about what actually moves things forward.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring about this issue!
Look, I get it. Daylight Saving Time is certainly not the most important issue out there.
As I write this, there are huge and really significant issues going on all over the globe, and I don't want to take away from any of those.
But I've been working on this issue now for five years, and I can say that the science is now making it clear that this is not a novelty issue, this is a legitimate public health topic.
I hadn't added much to my research page in recent months, even though it is one of the most popular pages on the site and is certainly the one that gets copied the most often. (Usually without credit, grumble grumble.)
And in adding to that page I discovered some new research from Germany that has answered a question I've had for a long time.
You see, I'd seen all the studies that showed heart attacks went up, strokes went up, etc. I'd read how traffic accidents were worse. The studies, however, didn't go all the way. For instance the heart attack studies just looked at people who showed up at the hospital having had a myocardial infarction. They might have lived, the study didn't say. What about the people who had a heart attack at home and died without even making it to the hospital?
In short, what I hadn't seen was some researcher just look at the death records. I mean, I would think deaths would go up given all the other science, but I couldn't actually say that the DST "spring forward" time change was an actual killer.
Now I can.
The research from Germany published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine looked at actual autopsy reports over a 10-year period.
The findings are clear. More deaths from heart attacks. More deaths from traffic accidents. Statistically significant, scientifically proven... death.
People dying specifically because we lose an hour of sleep artificially.
The cruel irony is that this study comes from Germany, the very country that's the reason we have DST. It had been proposed, but not yet adopted, in the U.S. and England, before WWI. It was during that war that Germany adopted the clock-switching, and much of the rest of the world followed suit, and we've had some form of it ever since.
So, I really do get it. The whole debate can seem kind of frivolous given the really serious problems we have around the world. I have fun every year posting all the creative new memes that come out, and I'll keep doing that. And it can be fun and slightly mind-warping to think about the very notion of time.
But the science is now clear. Changing clocks kills people every single year, and will keep killing people until we stop it.
OK, we're getting back into the busy season for #LockTheClock.
I know this blog has been a bit quiet, but in part that's because I've been so busy behind the scenes. Some of the stuff I can talk about, and some I can't. Not yet. But when I can... Boy Howdy! It's going to be tremendously fantastically big.
If you are just visiting for the first time, here's what you need to know:
If you just survived the switch into Daylight Saving Time in Australia or New Zealand (weirdly even those two friendly countries don't switch on the same weekend), welcome! For the first time this year I noticed a huge uptick in visitors from Down Under.
I haven't yet had too many visitors from Iran, but I learned from a Lyft driver (and confirmed it on the internet) that Iran switches into DST on the first day of Spring and out on the first day of Fall. It doesn't matter if the equinoxes fall on a Saturday night or not, they just switch, even if it's mid-week.
While I'm interested in other countries, I'm most interested in what's happened recently in the European Union.
The news out of Europe is that all the member states of the EU will be ending the clock-changing insanity, starting in 2021.
It's not final yet, but if I can read the tea leaves of this official statement, it seems like a done deal.
This is fantastic news for all the regular reasons, but especially because it mirrors what I think is the best solution for us in the U.S.
<Begin DST Nerd section, skip over if you are sleepy.>
There is a lot of debate about if we should switch to permanent Standard Time (what we have in the winter) or permanent Daylight Saving Time.
Officially, the position of this movement is to not take a position. The only thing we are asking is to #LockTheClock, no more changing the clock twice per year.
More specifically, in a country as big and diverse as the United States, there's no one, clear answer. All of the opinion polls say that people want more daylight later in the day when they can use it more. Most businesses want more daylight later, it's better for golf and other recreation industries, as well as retail sales.
Also, there are just a lot of weird little exceptions. Eastern Oregon. Northern Idaho. Western Nebraska.
Two of our biggest states by population, Texas and Florida, have relatively small bits hanging out in a less-populous time zone to the west.
Also Arizona, which people think doesn't participate in DST, except that a huge swath of the state still does in the Navajo Nation. Indiana and Michigan have some odd spots, and Kentucky and Tennessee are cut right in half.
Weirdly, if the U.S. was to adopt the European system, it would be the most American thing we could do. A big part of our history is leaving a lot of the governing up to the states. Congress could pass a law saying that we are going to match the Europeans and stop changing clocks in 2021, and each state would have until then to decide which time zone they'll be in.
Some states won't have much say. California will be in the Pacific, New York in the East. But some states could decide that they want to unify, or even move. Michigan and Indiana should be in the Central Time zone if a person were trying to draw somewhat straight lines. I'm not sure why they aren't, but I would guess it has something to do with big business, even if big business did blame the farmers, the same way they've always done.
That's the best approach to federal legislation, something I am lobbying for. I haven't gotten there yet, but the fact that the current bill going through Congress seems to be dead may help the sponsors cast about for a new approach. I'm actively working on that right now.
<End DST Nerd section>
The good news is that compared to when I started working on this, I can see the momentum changing in the press inquiries I'm getting, the legislative interest, the visitors to this site, and more.
So, I know you won't like changing the clock again this fall, even though this is the one where you get an extra hour of sleep. But you can get that sleep with a bit of comfort that the world of clock changing is slowly drifting away.