To an extent, we might thank covid-19 for helping to clarify preferences for late-afternoon sunshine. When pandemic lockdowns reset schedules far and wide, a clear favorite emerged. During homebound periods in 2020, when the boundaries between workdays and weekends blurred, students and workers alike slept later in the morning and stayed up longer at night — a schedule that resembles the later-day start of daylight saving time.
One study, commissioned by mattress manufacturer Leesa Sleep, found that almost half of remote workers didn’t get out of bed till 10 minutes before they needed to report to their at-home workstation. Meanwhile, electricity use noticeably fell between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., leaving experts to theorize that people headed outdoors to bask in the daylight.
These data points not only suggest why so many workers aren’t interested in resuming their daily commute, but also help explain why political momentum is with the group that wants to spring forward this March — and not fall back months later.
More than 40 states are considering changes to end the time-shifting, The Post reported last month. In recent years, 19 states have passed legislation to remain on permanent daylight saving time. In California, where the issue went to a proposition in 2018, a demand for permanent daylight saving time passed with almost 60 percent of the vote.
Here’s the rub: Federal law says that a state can decide to remain year-round on standard time — that is, the way clocks are set from early November to mid-March. (Arizona and Hawaii have opted to do this.) But congressional approval is needed to change over to permanent daylight saving time.
Enter the Sunshine Protection Act, bipartisan legislation whose supporters span the spectrum from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) on the right to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on the left. If enacted, the entire country would skip ahead one more time — and stay there.
But Economist-YouGov polling last fall returned findings more in line with how people behaved in lockdown, when they had more freedom over their schedules — which suggests how they’d like to live year-round. A majority of respondents who wanted the time change to cease once and for all also wanted daylight saving time to be permanent.
And why wouldn’t we? When we skip ahead to begin daylight saving time, we won’t just be “losing” an hour. Many of us will be tired and out of sorts for days as our bodies adjust. Increases in car crashes and heart attacks have been documented after the clock hop. So have declines in workplace productivity and increases in on-the-job injuries. Even the stock market is likely to take a temporary hit.
If we’re going to make a change, sleep experts say that standard time should be, well, the standard. It’s not just that morning light makes us more alert, according to those who study slumber. It also synchronizes our 24-hour biological clocks.
“Standard time is the healthy choice,” Beth Ann Malow, a sleep medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, testified this week at a congressional hearing on the topic.
Washington needs to acknowledge the reality of how Americans live — and sleep. It’s time to let the (late-afternoon) sunshine in. Let’s make this Sunday’s time switch our last.