Do we still need daylight saving time in 2022?

Ben Kearney, News Reporter

Illustration by Amelia Ebling.

In March 2022, the U.S. Senate passed legislation, the Sunshine Protection Act, to make daylight saving time (DST) permanent. While the legislation would not take effect until November of 2023, many at Whitman are eager to see the time change removed.

According to the Bureau of Transportation, daylight saving time started in 1883. Major railroad companies were concerned about train collisions due to differences in regional times. It did not become an official law until 1966 under the Uniform Time Act. In 2022, DST ended on Nov. 6. 

Associate Professor of History Nina Lerman explained why time zones were established in the late nineteenth century.

“Time zones, rather than ‘noon is when the sun is overhead,’ only became formalized in the 1880s (the railroads wanted it). Plenty of people in the 1910s could well remember ‘sun time,’” Lerman said. “Then it was a war measure for WWI and WWII.”

Sophomore Charles Thompson feels the effects of DST in the winter more than he does in the spring. 

“As somebody who’s lived in northeastern Washington, I definitely feel that I experienced the effects of a ‘fall back’ a lot more than [that of] ‘spring forward,’” Thompson said. “You have one hour less [of] sleep.”

Marketing and Communications Fellow Madi Welch ‘22 remembers how the premature darkness impacted her sleep while she was a student at Whitman.

“I think it always mess[ed] with my sleep,” Welch said. “[When you] have classes that get out at 3:50 pm, and you leave and it’s already getting dark as you’re walking back to your dorm or your house … it doesn’t help you focus. I think that’s my biggest thing; when it’s dark outside and you’re in class, there’s nothing that can keep you awake.”

Thompson enjoys the extra hour of sleep, but noted the potential link between seasonal depression and daylight saving time.

“I’ve heard about studies showing correlations between level of sunlight exposure and overall happiness or wellness,” Thompson said. “I think that having less sunlight in the day, especially as college students where we typically as a whole wake up later, [can be harmful].”

Welch believes daylight saving time might be linked to seasonal depression during the winter.

“I feel like we have conversations about seasonal depression and/or seasonal affective disorder [SAD],” Welch said. “There’s also part of it that’s kind of manufactured or man-made by making it get darker earlier. That’s going to have a bigger impact than just a typical SAD.”

Thompson noted the importance of daylight saving time at a different point in history and believes it is not needed in present time.

“I question if we continue needing to use a changing cycle of time.”

Welch is also in favor of the removal of DST. However, she hopes it is implemented in the spring when the clocks are set an hour forward, adding more daylight. 

“I think spring forward would make more sense,” Welch said. “I think that gives people more daylight after work, which I think is my biggest point; no one likes leaving class or work [when] it’s dark outside.” 

Thompson is curious to see how the population is affected by the change.

“I definitely think it could have a societal influence in regard to what time humans do things during the day,” Thompson said. “Our perception of time also changes by an hour with the changing of a daylight saving cycle, so it might have an effect just on the overall timing of things.”

The Sunshine Protection Act has sparked controversy, as studies have found that the one-hour change disrupts our Circadian rhythms in tune with Earth’s rotation. The bill has yet to move through the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the president.