Fall Back? Why Daylight Saving Time Is So Confusing
It’s time to wind back the clocks – or is that forward? Wait, are we losing an hour, or gaining one?
Changing of the clocks is frustrating to many people – even the name itself is confusing: It’s daylight saving time — not, as many people say, daylight savings time.
Part of the frustration is biological. Changing the clocks messes up sleep — a factor that some studies say harms people’s health.
Research finds an increase in heart attacks the day after a daylight-saving clock change, and many people report jet-lag-like symptoms. There is mixed research on whether daylight saving time causes an uptick in car accidents as a result of groggy drivers.
Messing with time!
Much of the antipathy toward daylight saving time stems from practicality. Though the brain is not a perfect timekeeper, research suggests people do have a sort of internal “clock” that helps them keep track of how much time is passing. Many brain regions appear to be involved in this process, but activation in the insular cortex —located between the temporal lobe and the parietal and frontal lobes — may play an important role.
Rural farmers hate the idea (cows need milking at the same time each day, regardless of what the clock says). Congress passed a repeal, Wilson vetoed their bill, and Congress actually overrode the veto — something that’s happened only 110 times in U.S. history, according to Senate records. Daylight saving was reinstituted during World War II and became uniform and (seemingly) permanent in 1966.
Daylight saving time is an emotional subject. And why not? Some of the effects are just plain weird.
Amtrak, for example, has to keep its overnight trains on schedule. According to the rail system’s timetable, “At the spring time change (second Sunday in March), Amtrak trains traveling overnight will become one hour late and will attempt to make up the time. At the fall time change (first Sunday in November), Amtrak trains traveling overnight will normally hold at the next station after the time change, then depart on time.” In other words, rather than try to fight the clock, Amtrak trains just wait for it to catch up with them.