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What is daylight saving time — and why do some people want to get rid of it?

The clocks are changing yet again. Here's what to know and how to prepare.
/ Source: TODAY

The end of daylight saving time is right around the corner — and we’re about to "fall back" an hour this weekend on Sunday, Nov. 5. The clocks may be changing by just an hour, but it can still have a big impact on your day, your sleep quality and your overall health. 

While springing forward is more associated with negative health effects than falling back, returning to standard time in November can make it difficult to wake up on time and affect your sleep schedule for at least a week after, according to the Sleep Foundation.

However you feel about the clocks changing, it helps to know a little more about why we do this every year — and why some politicians and sleep experts are calling for the practice to end.

When is daylight saving time?

Daylight saving (not savings) time starts every year on the second Sunday in March when we "spring forward" an hour. This year, it started back on March 12, 2023.

It will run until the first Sunday in November, which happens to be this weekend on Nov. 5, 2023. On that day, clocks fall back an hour as daylight saving time ends and we enter standard time.

The time changes at 2 a.m. while most of us are asleep. And your devices these days will likely do the changing for you so you may not even notice.

Why do we have daylight saving time?

As the seasons change, we get fewer hours of daylight in the winter and more in the spring and summer. (The effect is more noticeable the further away you are from the equator, meaning northern states will feel it more than southern states.) Changing the clocks allows us to maximize the amount of sunlight we get while we’re awake.

Contrary to popular belief, daylight saving was not introduced to help farmers get some extra sun, nor was it an invention of Benjamin Franklin. Instead, lawmakers thought that it might lead to less use of electricity. (The actual effects have been minimal at best.)

What are the arguments for ditching daylight saving?

Changing our clocks twice a year is a practical hassle for many. And those shifts in schedules can also have negative effects on our sleep patterns and overall health. So, there’s been a growing push to stick to one time year-round and to do away with switching the clocks. 

Although it might seem like gaining or losing a single hour of sleep shouldn’t make much of a difference, it really does for many people. Studies have also shown an increase in heart attacks, car crashes and other ill health effects, particularly when clocks spring forward.

Some sleep experts argue that permanent standard time would be preferable to permanent daylight saving time. Sleep specialist Dr. Carol Ash told TODAY that we lose about 30 minutes of sleep a night during daylight saving time from March to November due to our bodies being misaligned with the sun.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is “in favor of a national, fixed, year-round time,” the organization’s website says. The best evidence we have now suggests that year-round standard time (rather than daylight saving time) “aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.”

We’ve made daylight saving time permanent before: In January 1974, President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act into law, which eliminated clock-changing for 16 months. While the move (designed as a two-year experiment) was initially quite popular, public opinion turned later in the year. Lawmakers ended the experiment early and standard time was reintroduced in October 1974.

But we may one day have another chance to see what life without changing the clocks is like.

The Sunshine Protection Act could make daylight saving time permanent

Following debates for years, the Senate finally voted to end the regular changing of clocks in March 2022.

The Sunshine Protection Act, which was meant to head to the House for its vote, would make daylight saving time permanent — and end the annual rituals of falling back and springing forward. 

“We got it passed the Senate, and now the clock is ticking to get the job done so we never have to switch our clocks again,” Sen. Patty Murray said on the Senate floor at the time. She urged the House to pass the bill just as quickly as the Senate did. “Let’s get this bill on President Biden’s desk and deliver more sunshine to Americans across the country,” Murray said.

However, the bill stalled out, NBC News reported. In March 2023, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio reintroduced the bill to the 118th Congress. However, the bill hasn't really gone anywhere since then.