Where did our collective societal grudge against mornings come from?
Our fictional universe presents mornings as bright sunlight pouring through our curtains. Birds happily chirping outside our windows. The smell of freshly brewed coffee — and, if we’re lucky, a hearty breakfast of pancakes and eggs.
Reality, however, includes tightly pulled curtains. Birdsong drowned out by the 12 alarms we’ve set on our iPhones. And by the time we get that coffee, we’re already in the car and stuck in the drive-thru.
Yet we as a society don’t truly show how much we dislike mornings until it comes to daylight saving time — when we push our clocks ahead an hour at the start of spring, with the hope of enjoying more sunlight and fewer stars.
In fact, the whole idea of daylight saving is to push more sunlight into the evenings, and less into our mornings. So, if we were hoping for more sunlight to fill our bedrooms as we wake up, we better consider sleeping in.
If your day starts at 6 a.m., then you’re experiencing what it was like at 5 a.m. just a week ago, when standard time was still in effect. And really, it is still 5 a.m. — just not in the reality where the Uniform Time Act of 1966 exists.
Twice a year, we revisit the same argument: Why is moving our clocks backward and forward still a thing? We debate the origins, the supposed environmental benefits, and how all of that applies — or doesn’t apply — to today. In general, we come to the same conclusion: We don’t like moving our clocks back and forth twice a year.
Why do we still do it? Blame Congress. And not just for the 1966 bill signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, but for not ending this nonsense once and for all in the decades since then.
We actually came very close to making daylight saving time permanent across the United States with a Senate bill introduced by Marco Rubio. Modeled after a similar bill that had passed in Rubio’s home state of Florida, the Sunshine Protection Act earned support on both sides of the political aisle — from Democrats like Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, to Republicans like then President Donald Trump himself.
The bill was actually passed by the Senate last year through unanimous consent, although some senators later complained that they didn’t know the bill was part of a consent package, and that if they had, they would have voted against it.
Yet all the Sunshine Protection Act needed was a thumbs-up from the House, and President Biden’s signature. It got neither, and thus, last weekend, we got to experience once again a shift in time for no other reason than to make evening daylight longer.
Is this all much ado about nothing? No, says neurologist Beth Ann Marlow, who teaches at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. She has studied clock-changing across the country for the past five years, and found that “the transition to daylight saving time each spring affects health immediately after the clock change, and also for the nearly eight months that Americans remain on daylight saving time.”
Marlow shared these findings with TheConversation.com last year, saying that the question shouldn’t be whether to end clock changes, but whether we should stick with standard time or daylight saving. Her choice? Standard time, which is closer to geological time, when the sun is highest at noon.
While daylight saving might allow for more sports to be played in sunlight after school, it also means that many who wake up before 8 a.m. to catch a bus are doing so in the dark.
Having the sun set earlier — at least according to our clocks — could help with sleep, too. Extended light in the evening delays the brain’s release of melatonin, the hormone that promotes drowsiness. It’s even worse for teenagers in the throes of puberty, Marlow adds, when melatonin already gets a late release, meaning our young minds are getting even less sleep.
Too often, we continue to embrace practices because they’ve always existed — Black Friday, scrambling an egg, making our beds in the morning only to mess them up again at night. But there are some practices that should indeed become a remnant of the past. And changing our clocks twice a year to accommodate daylight saving time can’t be eliminated fast enough.