Clock Changes… And Other Futile Attempts To Control Time

Does time exist? This has been a philosophical quandary for years. The philosophy of time that takes the view that only the present is real is called “presentism,” while the view that all points in time are equally real is referred to as “eternalism.”

Regardless of this argument, time — a man-made concept — is a requirement of our modern society. We use the clock to measure time. Information about time tells us the duration of events, when they occur, and which events happen before which others. Nevertheless, humanity continues in its eternal quest to control time. Despite at least 2,500 years of investigation into the nature of time, there are many unresolved issues.

One of those unresolved issues is whether we really need to have Daylight Savings Time. This is a timely subject, since Daylight Savings Time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 5, which means we “fall back” and turn our physical clocks back an hour and “re-gain” the hour we “lost” back in March. Luckily, many digital clocks helpfully do this mini time warp automatically nowadays.

There are advantages and disadvantages to adjusting time. While changing the clock does not actually create extra daylight, it does impact when on the clock the sun rises and sets. This creates the appearance of an additional hour of daylight, and longer evenings, thus both boosting the economy and motivating people to get out of the house. Activities such as boating, golfing, shopping and dining out are all increased when it’s light out.

More light during the day means energy savings, too, because people are less reliant on artificial light for activities. A 2016 study by researchers from Prague’s Charles University and the Czech National Bank on energy use and Daylight Savings Time found a positive relationship between latitude and energy savings. Studies have also found that the time change contributes to improved road safety by reducing pedestrian fatalities by 13 percent during dawn and dusk hours. There is also a seven-percent decrease in robberies following the spring time shift.

For all these studied benefits, there are some concerns, aside from the wide-scale confusion that the time shift brings. The biggest negative is health-related. Changing the time disrupts our body clocks. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For others, however, the time change can have more serious consequences. A 2009 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology links the lack of sleep at the start of Daylight Savings Time to car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide and miscarriages. Further, the early evening darkness after the fall time shift has been linked to depression. The risk of suffering a heart attack is also increased when Daylight Savings Time begins. However, the extra hour of sleep we get at the end this time of year has, in turn, been linked to fewer heart attacks.

Several states are exploring the idea of removing Daylight Savings Time from their lexicon. Florida is not currently among them, nor does it appear on the horizon in Tallahassee. So, enjoy your extra hour of sleep next weekend, content in the knowledge that it is yours to keep, at least for a few months. Meanwhile, we will move on to pondering why, exactly, Florida is split between two time zones, with most of the state in the Eastern Time Zone, and the western half of the Panhandle in the Central Time Zone. But that’s another discussion for another time.