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What is daylight saving time — and why do we have it?

The Senate just passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent.

Following debates for years, the Senate finally voted to end the regular changing of clocks this week. The bill, which will now 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,” said Sen. Patty Murray on the Senate floor. She urged the House to pass the bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act, 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.

When is daylight saving time?

Daylight saving (not savings) time starts every year on the second Sunday in March. This year, that was on March 13, 2022. It will run until the first Sunday in November, which is when clocks "fall back" an hour as we enter standard time. In 2022, clocks will turn back on Nov. 6.

The time changes at 2 a.m. while most of us are asleep. But 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.)

The U.S. has observed daylight saving time in some way or another since around 1942. And the practice was formalized across the country in 1966 with the passage of the Uniform Time Act, which also standardized the major time zones in the U.S. There are few places in the country that don't observe daylight saving time, including Hawaii and Arizona.

What are the arguments for one year-round time?

Changing our clocks twice a year is a practical hassle for many. And that shift 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 all 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 absolutely 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, TODAY explained previously.

And, in fact, 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, now, we may have another chance to see what life without changing the clocks is like.

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