What is Daylight Savings Time (DST)?

Understanding Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time (DST) is the international process of putting all clocks within temperate climates (countries that have summer and winter) ahead an hour during summer time, to take advantage of the fact that days last much longer. When this is done, people wake up earlier, and thus can use more of the daylight to their advantage – whether that may be for leisure purposes or work purposes.

DST is used in most of Europe, the United States, Mexico and much of Canada, as well as countries in South America, portions of Australia and New Zealand. However, while the benefits of DST are there, it also has a few drawbacks – including “clock confusion", and disruption in the sleeping cycle, where people would simply wake up late for work. These drawbacks and others has had other countries that fall in the geographical areas where Daylight Savings Time is applicable opt out, like all of East Asia, northern portions of Australia, much of South America, and countries in North and South Africa.

While DST is beneficial in a lot of temperate climates, the more extreme north and extreme south (countries like Finland, Norway, Greenland, and portions of Russia, or portions of Chile, Argentina and the entirety of Antarctica) actually experience quite extreme time changes as well. The further away from the equator you are, the more does sunrise and sunset fluctuate. Because of that, DST isn’t quite as useful up (and down) there. Same goes for tropical countries, and other places near the equator, since sunrise and sunset barely fluctuates the closer you are to the equator.

Some of the countries that used to be on DST have decided to simply change their time zones (which is why you’ll see portions of Russia, China, and Canada in time zones that… they really shouldn’t be in, normally) to replicate the effects of DST without having to turn clocks forward and back twice a year.

When was Daylight Saving Time invented?

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time

“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," is something Benjamin Franklin once said. Perhaps it was this time-conscious demeanor of his that lead to him writing to a newspaper in Paris, suggesting that the fine Parisians should save candles and oil by waking up earlier during the summer, to take advantage of the fact that daytime lasted longer – something he himself realized one day, upon waking to a sun that had risen earlier than he usually thought it did.

However, the actualization of his suggestion didn’t become an official reality until much later, because things the railway and mass communication networks (post and telephone services), along with the popularization of the 9-to-5 work day weren’t quite popular, or even thought of.

The idea resurfaced much later in the end of the 19th century, when New Zealand entomologist (someone who studies insects) George Vernon Hudson presented a paper on the concept. It finally made its way to parliament in Britain in the early 20th century, through William Willett, who liked to golf, and wanted to save some precious daylight by waking up earlier.

But, the bill didn’t pass. Not until the First World War, when fear of an impeding coal shortage made Austria and Hungary pass DST under the German for “summer time". Most of Europe followed suit throughout the war – but it was dropped by many, until the Second World War reignited the need to save energy and daylight. Eventually, it became permanent in the Western world after North America and Europe experienced a major energy crisis in the 70s.

Fun fact: Instead of Daylight Savings Time, ancient civilizations like Rome simply counted hours differently over the course of the seasons – sometimes a work hour would be around 40 minutes long, in other seasons, it would be as long as 75 minutes!