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5 things to know about daylight time

It’s the loss of an hour most of us dread come the end of winter, but do we even know the reason behind the time shift? Here’s a backgrounder to help put you in-the-know as the clock springs forward this weekend.

The rationale

The debate over daylight time has been ticking since the 18th century, when the prevailing notion was that it would actually save money, as more daylight hours meant less electricity consumption.

This need to save fuel prompted wartime governments to put daylight time into practice, with the Germans being the first to make it mandatory during the First World War. The Americans followed suit during the Second World War.

Today, the time change is still practiced in many other countries, where proponents say they simply enjoy having more daylight hours in which to conduct their daily activities and routines.

Who came up with daylight time?

U.S. inventor Benjamin Franklin is often credited as being the father of daylight time after he wrote a satirical essay while visiting Paris in 1784 that suggested Parisians could use fewer candles if they rose earlier and made more use of the morning sunlight.

Its invention is mainly credited however, to British builder William Willett, who at the turn of the 20th century, proposed a clock shift forward in the summer in order to take advantage of sunlight in the mornings.

DST? Not for us, thanks

Daylight time is really only useful for regions further away from the equator, where fluctuation in the length of day is greater. So naturally, countries closer to the equator tend not to employ it, given that there is relatively little change in daytime hours throughout the year.

The downside 

Although it’s only one hour, the time shift in March can disrupt our internal clock, to the detriment of our health. The loss of an hour can cause fatigue, which lowers alertness. Drivers in Canada are urged to take precaution, as they are 10 per cent more likely to have an accident in the week following the switch. Studies have also shown that heart attacks tend to dramatically increase the day after the clocks spring forward.

The sunny side

Some people are willing to forego the hour of sleep for extended daylight hours, saying it helps mentally to have exposure to the sun for longer periods of time from spring to fall. Even if it is just a brighter walk home from the office.

If the loss of that one hour really gets you down this Sunday, just remember: After a particularly brutal winter, it’s also a nice reminder that spring (and warmer temperatures) are just around the corner.

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