Set your clocks FORWARD one hour this Saturday night! Sorry, we're losing an hour of sleep!

Why do we do this? What is the history behind this? What is the deal with fall back and spring forward? Below you will find everything you need to know come Saturday and anytime in the future when you need some good small talk.

Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time.

In the European Union, Summer Time begins and ends at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time). It begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. In the EU, all time zones change at the same moment.

Spring forward, Fall back

During DST, clocks are turned forward an hour, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.

Spelling and grammar

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but neither is politically desirable.

When in the morning?

In the U.S., clocks change at 2:00 a.m. local time. In spring, clocks spring forward from 1:59:59 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. In the EU, clocks change at 1:00 a.m. Universal Time; in spring, clocks spring forward from 12:59 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., and in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

In the United States, Daylight Saving Time commences at 2:00 a.m. to minimize disruption. However, many states restrict bars from serving alcohol between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. At 2:00 a.m. in the fall, however, the time switches back one hour. So, can bars serve alcohol for that additional hour? Some states claim that bars actually stop serving liquor at 1:59 a.m., so they have already stopped serving when the time reverts to Standard Time. Other states solve the problem by saying that liquor can be served until "two hours after midnight." In practice, however, many establishments stay open an extra hour in the fall.

In the U.S., 2:00 a.m. was originally chosen as the changeover time because it was practical and minimized disruption. Most people were at home and this was the time when the fewest trains were running. It is late enough to minimally affect bars and restaurants, and it prevents the day from switching to yesterday, which would be confusing. It is early enough that the entire continental U.S. switches by daybreak, and the changeover occurs before most early shift workers and early churchgoers are affected.

Some U.S. areas

For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The Navajo Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to its large size and location in three states.

Idea of Daylight Saving Time

The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin during his sojourn as an American delegate in Paris in 1784, in an essay, "An Economical Project." Read more about Franklin's essay.

Some of Franklin's friends, inventors of a new kind of oil lamp, were so taken by the scheme that they continued corresponding with Franklin even after he returned to America.

The idea was first advocated seriously by London builder William Willett (1857-1915) in the pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight" (1907), that proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September. As he was taking an early morning a ride through Petts Wood, near Croydon, Willett was struck by the fact that the blinds of nearby houses were closed, even though the sun was fully risen. When questioned as to why he didn't simply get up an hour earlier, Willett replied with typical British humor, "What?" In his pamphlet "The Waste of Daylight" he wrote:

"Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used."

Early British laws and lax observance

About one year after Willett began to advocate daylight saving (he spent a fortune lobbying), he attracted the attention of the authorities. Robert Pearce - later Sir Robert Pearce - introduced a bill in the House of Commons to make it compulsory to adjust the clocks. The bill was drafted in 1909 and introduced in Parliament several times, but it met with ridicule and opposition, especially from farming interests. Generally lampooned at the time, Willett died on March 4, 1915.

Following Germany's lead, Britain passed an act on May 17, 1916, and Willett's scheme of adding 80 minutes, in four separate movements was put in operation on the following Sunday, May 21, 1916. There was a storm of opposition, confusion, and prejudice. The Royal Meteorological Society insisted that Greenwich time would still be used to measure tides. The parks belonging to the Office of Works and the London County Council decided to close at dusk, which meant that they would be open an extra hour in the evening. Kew Gardens, on the other hand, ignored the daylight saving scheme and decided to close by the clock.

In Edinburgh, the confusion was even more marked, for the gun at the Castle was fired at 1:00 p.m. Summer Time, while the ball on the top of the Nelson monument on Calton Hill fell at 1:00 Greenwich Time. That arrangement was carried on for the benefit of seamen who could see it from the Firth of Forth. The time fixed for changing clocks was 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday.

There was a fair bit of opposition from the general public and from agricultural interests who wanted daylight in the morning, but Lord Balfour came forward with a unique concern:
"Supposing some unfortunate lady was confined with twins and one child was born 10 minutes before 1 o'clock. ... the time of birth of the two children would be reversed. ... Such an alteration might conceivably affect the property and titles in that House."

After World War I, Parliament passed several acts relating to Summer Time. In 1925, a law was enacted that Summer Time should begin on the day following the third Saturday in April (or one week earlier if that day was Easter Day). The date for closing of Summer Time was fixed for the day after the first Saturday in October.

The energy saving benefits of Summer Time were recognized during World War II, when clocks in Britain were put two hours ahead of GMT during the summer. This became known as Double Summer Time. During the war, clocks remained one hour ahead of GMT throughout the winter.

Opposition and obstacles

Many people intensely dislike Daylight Saving Time. Frequent complaints are the inconvenience of changing many clocks and adjusting to a new sleep schedule. For most people, this is a mere nuisance, but some people with sleep disorders find this transition very difficult. Indeed, there is evidence that the severity of auto accidents increases and work productivity decreases as people adjust to the time change.

Some argue that the energy savings touted by DST is offset by the energy used by those living in warm climates to cool their homes during summer afternoons and evenings. Similarly, the argument can be made that more evening hours of light encourage people to run errands and visit friends, thus consuming more gasoline.

Protests are also put forth by people who wake at dawn, or whose schedules are otherwise tied to sunrise, such as farmers. Canadian poultry producer Marty Notenbomer notes, "The chickens do not adapt to the changed clock until several weeks have gone by, so the first week of April and the last week of October are very frustrating for us."

Many parents express concern that Daylight Saving Time results in early morning dangers, as children are less visible as they cross roads and wait for school buses in the darkness.

In Israel, ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jews have campaigned against Daylight Saving Time because they recite Selichot penitential prayers in the early morning hours during the Jewish month of Elul.

A writer in 1947 noted, "I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." (Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947, XIX, Sunday.)

Sometimes people recommend a "compromise," wherein clocks would be set one-half hour forward year round. While this may initially sound appealing, it is not a good solution. In the winter months, when daylight saving is not occurring, our clock is divided such that noon should be the middle of the day (although since time zones are so wide, this does not always happen). In the summer, when there are more daylight hours, we want to shift a full hour to the evening.

Some countries set their clocks to fractional time zones. For example, Kathmandu, Nepal is 5:45 hours ahead of Universal Time, and Calcutta (Kolkatta), India is 5:30 ahead. This is not an attempt to compromise and have half Daylight Saving Time year-round, but rather an adjustment made because the countries straddle international time zones.

You can read even more here! (Wow, you must really not want to work on that paper…!?!?)

Used by permission. License: CreativeCommons - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.