Why Is Daylight Savings a Thing? History of DST

October 11, 2023 | Casper Editorial Team

Daylight savings time was created as a way to conserve energy and allow people to get more use out of natural daylight.

As we set our clocks forward in spring and backward in fall, many might wonder – why is daylight savings a thing in the first place? Join us as we dive into the origins, rationale, and implications of Daylight Savings Time (DST), shedding light on why it’s essential to understand this time-altering practice’s history and ongoing impact.

Origins of Daylight Savings Time

Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Savings Time?

Benjamin Franklin is frequently attributed with the creation of Daylight Saving Time. He penned a satirical article, showcased in the April 26, 1784 edition of the Journal de Paris—in French—that humorously claimed he discovered the sun shines as soon as it rises, a phenomenon unbeknownst to the locals who slumbered until noon. In a bid to conserve candles, Franklin amusingly suggested taxing shutter-users and initiating a daily morning bell at sunrise, compelling people to align their schedules with the sun’s availability.1

However, Franklin’s whimsical letter didn’t specifically suggest adjusting clocks forward in spring and backward in fall; this concept wasn’t embraced until well over a hundred years later. Franklin’s playful proposals to encourage early rising might have shaped the thoughts of future policymakers. Presently, Daylight Saving Time is recognized across most of the United States, Canada, and Europe. Yet, to our knowledge, there’s no evidence the French government ever implemented a strategy of sounding bells and firing cannons at dawn to rouse the slumbering Parisians.1

Implementation During World War I

The concept of DST gained traction during World War I, where it was implemented as a strategy for energy conservation. The rationale was that by extending daylight hours, nations could reduce the use of artificial lighting and save fuel for the war effort. Public reception was mixed, with some appreciating the extended daylight, while others found the change disruptive.2

What Was the Rationale for Daylight Savings Time?

Energy Conservation

Historically, DST was a response to energy crises, particularly during times of war. But how much energy does it actually save? Most studies suggest the savings are modest, with a reduction in energy consumption by approximately 1%. In fact, a meta-analysis of 44 studies concluded that, on average, reports indicate a 0.34% reduction in electricity consumption during DST.3 Nevertheless, this seemingly small percentage can translate into significant savings on a national scale.

Legislation on Daylight Savings Time

Governments play a crucial role in enforcing and adapting DST rules. Three significant legislative milestones in the history of Daylight Saving Time in the United States are the Standard Time Act of 1918, Uniform Time Act of 1966 and the proposed Sunshine Protection Act.

The Standard Time Act of 1918

The Standard Time Act of 1918 was a landmark in the history of time observance in the United States. It was the first federal law to establish Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time (DST) across the country, and it had several key provisions4:

  • Time Zones: The act defined five time zones across the United States and entrusted the Interstate Commerce Commission with the authority to define the limits of each zone. This was a significant shift from the prevailing system, where each railroad operated on its own time system, based on the local time of its headquarters or main terminus, leading to a patchwork of local times across the country.5
  • Daylight Saving Time: Another pivotal component of the act was the introduction of DST, which aimed to extend daylight hours, promote energy conservation during World War I, and allow Americans more sunlight to enjoy. DST was scheduled to begin on March 31, 1918.5

However, the section of the act concerning DST was short-lived. It was repealed on August 20, 1919, by An Act For the repeal of the daylight-saving law, enacted over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. Interestingly, a mistake in the act initially placed most of the state of Idaho (south of the Salmon River) in the Central Time Zone, a mishap that was corrected by subsequent legislation.4

Uniform Time Act

The Uniform Time Act of 1966, enacted on April 13, 1966, aimed to standardize the adoption and observance of time within the established time zones. The main goals were simplifying the official pattern of DST application and establishing a system of uniform DST throughout the nation, which replaced the previous system where each state determined its DST scheme. The act required states observing DST to begin it at 2 a.m. local time on the last Sunday in April and end it at 2 a.m. local time on the last Sunday in October. It preempted all state laws related to DST, allowing states to opt out but requiring Congress to amend the act for any state wishing to make permanent Daylight Savings Time.6

Sunshine Protection Act

Introduced by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in 2018, the Sunshine Protection Act aims to make Daylight Savings Time permanent in the U.S., thus eliminating biannual clock changes and leading to later sunrises and sunsets during what is currently standard time.7 The Senate passed the act in March 2022 through unanimous consent, but as of 2023, it still requires approval from the U.S. House of Representatives and the president’s signature to become law.8 The act is modeled after a 2018 Florida bill with the same name, and if passed, it would extend DST from eight months to the entire year, emphasizing the changing perspectives on time observance.

Differences in DST Observance Around the World

As society evolves, so do our needs. Some regions/states/countries argue that DST is outdated, given advancements in energy-efficient lighting and heating. Others maintain that the benefits of DST, such as energy conservation and increased productivity, remain pertinent. This ongoing debate has led to a patchwork of observance across the globe.

Proponents of DST argue that it saves energy by shifting daylight hours to the evening, when people are more likely to be awake and using electricity. They also argue that DST can improve productivity by giving people an extra hour of sunlight in the morning.

Opponents of DST argue that it is disruptive to sleep schedules and can lead to health problems such as fatigue and headaches. They also argue that DST does not save as much energy as proponents claim, and that the benefits of DST are outweighed by the costs.

The debate over DST is likely to continue for years to come. As technology continues to evolve and legislation continues to change, it is possible that DST will become even more or less relevant.

Impacts of Daylight Savings Time

Sleep Health

Daylight Saving Time (DST) can have a significant impact on sleep due to the disruption of circadian rhythms, which are 24-hour cycles that regulate sleep and other bodily functions.9

Here are some key points about the impact of DST on sleep:

  • Circadian Rhythm Disruption: DST can cause circadian misalignment, leading to sleep loss and sleep debt. The transition between DST and Standard Time results in darker mornings and more evening light, which can “delay” the sleep-wake cycle, making people feel tired in the morning and alert in the evening.9
  • Sleep Deprivation: The loss of one hour of sleep during the transition to DST in the spring can cause sleep deprivation stages and sleepiness in most people, which may linger for days to weeks. This sleep loss can have adverse effects on perception, judgment, and overall health.10
  • Sleep Schedule Disruption: During DST, people tend to go to bed and fall asleep later at night, resulting in sleep loss and poor sleep quality.11 This disruption can be especially problematic for populations that already experience chronic insufficient sleep or other sleep difficulties, such as teenagers and night shift workers.11

When it comes to how to fix your sleep schedule to minimize the effects of DST on sleep, gradual adjustments to sleep schedules are recommended. This can include going to bed 15 minutes earlier, starting several days before the time change, and increasing the adjustment by 15 minutes every couple of nights.10


The agriculture sector experiences a unique set of challenges and benefits with daylight saving time (DST). The changing of the clocks can affect farming routines, particularly for those animals that are sensitive to changes in light and feeding times. For example, cows that are used to being milked at a certain time of day may become agitated or less productive if the time changes.12

Additionally, crops that are sensitive to sunlight may need to be protected from the extra hours of daylight during DST. However, the extended daylight can also provide more time for fieldwork, which can be beneficial during peak seasons.13 For example, farmers may be able to get more done in the fields before the sun sets, which can help them to meet production deadlines. 

Overall, the impact of DST on the agriculture sector is mixed. There are both challenges and benefits associated with the time change, and farmers will need to adjust their practices accordingly.

Industry Impacts

Various industries, from retail to broadcasting, adapt to DST in diverse ways. The extended evening daylight can lead to increased consumer spending, benefiting the retail sector. However, it can also disrupt schedules and programming in the broadcasting industry. The economic implications are multifaceted, making DST a subject of ongoing analysis and debate.

The retail sector benefits from DST because people are more likely to shop after work when it is still light outside.14 This can lead to increased sales for retailers. However, the broadcasting industry can be disrupted by DST because it can cause changes to programming schedules. For example, a show that usually airs at 7pm might have to air at 6pm instead because of the time change. This can be confusing for viewers and can also lead to a loss of viewers if they are not able to watch the show at the new time. The economic implications of DST are complex and there is no clear consensus on whether it is beneficial or harmful.

Safety and Productivity Concerns

The longer daylight hours resulting from DST have been associated with fewer traffic accidents and potential increases in work and school productivity. The idea is that with more daylight, people can work and commute more safely, thereby reducing accidents and increasing overall efficiency.

Studies have shown that there are fewer traffic accidents during the hours of daylight savings time, and that this is likely due to the fact that people are more alert and aware of their surroundings when it is light outside. One study estimated that 901 fewer fatal crashes (727 involving pedestrians, 174 involving vehicle occupants) might have occurred if daylight saving time had been retained.15 Additionally, studies have also shown that people are more productive at work and school during the hours of daylight savings time, likely because they are less likely to be tired or distracted by darkness.16

Casper’s Commitment to Better Sleep

Daylight Savings Time is not just about adjusting our clocks—it’s a practice steeped in history, with varied implications across different sectors of society. Whether you’re an advocate for those extra daylight hours or a staunch supporter of keeping the clocks untouched, understanding the evolution and impacts of DST provides a fascinating glimpse into how we, as a society, measure and value our time.

At Casper, we understand that the shifting of clocks during Daylight Savings Time can impact your sleep and overall well-being. As a premier sleep company, we are dedicated to awakening the potential of a well-rested world. Our commitment goes beyond creating outrageously comfortable mattresses; it’s about setting a new standard in sleep innovation and bringing joy to a tired industry. We have spent years studying the magic and science of sleep, ensuring that our sleep products—from bed sheets, pillows, mattresses, bed frames and more—meet real customer needs and address the challenges posed by changes in time observance. 

If you’re adjusting to a new sleep schedule or just exploring the history and implications of DST, Casper is here to support your journey to better rest. Remember, great sleep changes everything, making the world a brighter place—one well-rested person at a time.


  1. Independence Hall Association. Ben Franklin: On Daylight Saving’s time. www.ushistory.org. https://www.ushistory.org/franklin/science/daylight.htm 
  2. Lange K. Daylight Saving Time Once Known As. U.S. Department of Defense. Published March 8, 2019. https://www.defense.gov/News/Feature-Stories/story/Article/1779177/daylight-saving-time-once-known-as-war-time/ 
  3. Havranek T, Herman D, Irsova Z. Does Daylight Saving Save Electricity? A Meta-Analysis. The Energy Journal. 2018;39(2). doi:https://doi.org/10.5547/01956574.39.2.thav 
  4. Wikipedia Contributors. Standard Time Act. Wikipedia. Published August 4, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Time_Act 
  5. Andrew Glass. President Wilson signs Standard Time Act, March 19, 1918. POLITICO. Published March 19, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/19/wilson-signs-standard-time-act-march-19-1918-467550 
  6. Wikipedia Contributors. Uniform Time Act. Wikipedia. Published August 8, 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Time_Act 
  7. Wikipedia Contributors. Sunshine Protection Act. Wikipedia. Published March 23, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunshine_Protection_Act 
  8. Shepardson D. U.S. Senate approves bill to make daylight saving time permanent. Reuters. Published March 16, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senate-approves-bill-that-would-make-daylight-savings-time-permanent-2023-2022-03-15/.  
  9. Pacheco D. Daylight Saving Time – How Time Change Affects Sleep. Sleep Foundation. Published October 27, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm/daylight-saving-time 
  10. Zeigler R. How to manage daylight saving time. Mayo Clinic Health System. Published March 5, 2021. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/how-to-manage-daylight-saving-time 
  11. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Daylight Saving Time. Sleep Education. https://sleepeducation.org/resources/daylight-saving-time/ 
  12. AgAmerica. Myth Vs. Fact: Daylight Saving Time and Farming. AgAmerica. Published November 15, 2019. https://agamerica.com/blog/myth-vs-fact-daylight-saving-time-farming/ 
  13. McKenzie RH. Understanding the effects of sunlight, temperature and precipitation. Top Crop Manager. Published November 22, 2017. https://www.topcropmanager.com/back-to-basics-20879/ 
  14. Farrell D, Ward Jr. M, Narasiman V. Shedding Light on Daylight Saving Time. www.jpmorganchase.com. Published November 2016. https://www.jpmorganchase.com/institute/research/cities-local-communities/jpmc-institute-daylight-savings-report#finding-1 
  15. Ferguson SA, Preusser DF, Lund AK, Zador PL, Ulmer RG. Daylight saving time and motor vehicle crashes: the reduction in pedestrian and vehicle occupant fatalities. American Journal of Public Health. 1995;85(1):92-95. doi:https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.85.1.92 
  16. Charbonnet Law. How Does Daylight Saving Time Affect Car Accident Rates? | Charbonnet Law. www.charbonnetlawfirm.com. Published April 3, 2022. https://www.charbonnetlawfirm.com/car-accidents/how-does-daylight-saving-time-affect-car-accident-rates/