With more than 48 hours having passed since we moved our clocks forward, we trust that the time lag has worn off. That the loss of sleep has been made up. That everybody has made it to work or school with plenty of alertness and energy.
If so, that means now is a good time to discuss the biannual ritual of springing forward or falling back, and to suggest that it is time for the practice to end.
This is not an original thought. If nothing else, the need for adjusting clocks twice a year reliably provides media outlets with stories about people decrying the time change and lawmakers questioning the need for such an endeavor. In Washington this year, a Senate bill to keep the state on standard time throughout the year was introduced by Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, and co-sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, among others. It failed to make it out of committee.
That doesn’t mean lawmakers should give up the fight, nor does it assuage questions about the need for a switch to daylight saving time in March and a return to standard time in November.
The idea apparently came from New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, who was an entomologist and astronomer — two disciplines we would have suspected are mutually exclusive. Hudson devised a plan to extend daylight hours during the summer, and the United States adopted it during World War I in an effort to conserve electricity. In the century since, the idea has become a source of enmity while leading to questions about whether it actually saves energy and whether it is damaging to our health.
Studies have demonstrated that extending daylight during waking hours has little impact upon energy use. And, in a review of available studies, the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges wrote, “sleep-deprived residents may be more prone to errors on routine, repetitive tasks and tasks that require sustained vigilance, which form a substantial portion of residents’ workload.” In other words, driving a car after springing forward can be slightly more dangerous than at other times, with the entire country suffering from one hour of jet lag. Disrupting sleep patterns can have a small but meaningful effect upon our alertness.
And yet, while we appreciate Sen. Honeyford’s efforts to address the issue, there are two problems with those efforts. One is that, if we eschew the changing of clocks, we should adopt daylight saving time rather than standard time throughout the year. Studies show that increasing daylight hours after work can lead to an increase in physical activity and that people are more likely to go shopping after work. Yes, adopting daylight saving time can help the economy.
The other problem is more specific to Southwest Washington. Because of our close ties to Oregon, it would be difficult to be on a different schedule than our neighbors across the Columbia River. If Washington is on daylight saving time and Oregon is on standard time, somebody leaving work in Portland would lose an hour each night when they crossed the bridge.
Because of that, any solution to the conundrum should come from an act of Congress. A national standard would avoid the problem of having residents in only some states adjust their clocks twice a year and would keep Vancouver on the same schedule as Portland.
All of this, we are certain, will give readers much fodder for thought — assuming they are not still busy getting caught up on their sleep.