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Daylight Saving Time Ends, But The Debates It Inspires Appear Endless

A customer tries watches at a watchmaker shop on Oct. 26, in Nantes, western France, two days before the end of Daylight Saving Time.
Loic Venance
/
AFP/Getty Images
A customer tries watches at a watchmaker shop on Oct. 26, in Nantes, western France, two days before the end of Daylight Saving Time.

If you're having trouble deploying that famous mnemonic, let's make this easy:

This is the one where you get one more hour of sleep.

Nov. 5 marks the first Sunday of November and, therefore, at 2 a.m. daylight saving time will cease, prompting clocks in the majority of the U.S. to "fall backward" to 1 a.m.

(Exceptions include Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the state of Arizona, with the exception to the exception being the Navajo Indian Reservation within Arizona, which does observe daylight saving time. Other exceptions include: huge swaths of the globe.)

But twice a year we are reminded that the ubiquity of this concept — originally adopted in the early part of the 20th century to harness the sunlight and warmth of longer summer days to decrease energy usage by keeping people outside longer — does not necessarily mean we have grown tired of interrogating its effects and usefulness.

For instance, some research suggests daylight saving time may do damage to our sleep cycle and therefore our health (although the "falling back" appears less potentially harmful than the "springing forward").

What's more, there is evidence to suggest daylight saving time takes a toll on TV ratings. As NPR's Neda Ulaby put it: "Suddenly, it's light outside for an extra hour. Watching TV is less appealing"

And then there's the question of whether we need it and, if so, in what form.

Some studies suggest the goal of saving energy is misguided. One from 2011 that followed people in Indiana, (which didn't uniformly observed daylight saving time before 2006) found that energy usage actually increased with daylight saving time. One possible explanation: Making us all spend more time awake during the hottest parts of the day may lead to more air conditioning usage.

Earlier this week, after months of deliberation, a special commission in Massachusetts charged with determining whether the state should switch to year-round daylight saving time delivered its findings. According to the AP, the group found that the plan would only reap some sort of benefit if all of the "Northeast" joined in. "If we don't have New York, this is a no-go," said Mass. state Rep. Paul Frost.

Others advocate for "inverting" daylight saving time to make the winter days longer, arguing this could even help combat seasonal affective disorder.

And after the "spring forward" of 2016, TV host Stephen Colbert asked for a more modest solution: Why not do it on a weekday afternoon?

"Why can't they do it on a Wednesday at 4 o'clock?" he said to applause. "Hey look now it's Wednesday at 5 o'clock. Time to go home."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.