What is the History of Daylight Savings Time (DST)?

February 15, 2023

What is the History of Daylight Savings Time (DST)?

Daylight Savings Time (DST) is a seasonal time change where you set clocks ahead of standard time when it begins, usually by one hour. As DST begins, the sun will rise and set later than the day before (on the clock). The opposite occurs when DST ends.

These days, fewer than 40 percent of countries all over the world use it for making better use of daylight and for conserving energy.

History of Daylight Savings Time

From the very start, the main goal of DST was to move daylight hours to better match those hours of human activity.

Benjamin Franklin was the first to conceive the concept of daylight saving in his "An Economical Project" essay, during his temporary stay as an American delegate in 1784 in Paris. Several of Franklin's friends were so taken by this scheme, they continued to correspond with Franklin even after he went back to America.

William Willett, London builder, was the first to seriously advocate the idea in the pamphlet, "Waste of Daylight" (1907) where he proposed turning clocks ahead 20 minutes on each Sunday in the month of April, and then setting them back on each Sunday in September.

Around a year after Willett started advocating daylight saving, he gained the attention of law enforcement. Robert Pearce set in motion a bill in the House of Commons, making it required by law to adjust the clocks. In 1909, the bill was drafted and introduced several times in Parliament, but it was met with opposition and ridicule, particularly from farming interests.

After Germany's lead, on May 17, 1916, Britain passed an act, and Willett's scheme to add 80 minutes, in four individual movements. The following Sunday, May 21, 1916, it was put into operation. There was a flood of:

  • Confusion
  • Opposition
  • Prejudice

After World War I, Parliament passed several acts related to Daylight Saving. In 1925, a law was passed that Daylight Saving should start on the day after the third Saturday in April (or, if the day was Easter Day, a week earlier). The date for closing Daylight Saving was set for the day following the first Saturday in October.

In 1973, in an effort to correlate cost savings, President Richard Nixon decided to implement year-round Daylight Savings Time to offset the energy price increase from the OPEC, or Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, oil embargo.

Daylight Savings Time This Year

Autumn brings the end of DST when much of the Northern Hemisphere will set their clocks an hour back to return to standard time. In the U.S. this year, DST will end at 2 AM on Sunday, November 3, 2019, and returns in spring at 2 AM on Sunday, March 8, 2020, when everyone’s clocks "spring ahead" an hour.

The Impact of DST

Parents of younger kids frequently dread these shifts, since they can upend bedtime and nap routines. However, once you know how this time change impacts sleep, and if you plan a little bit, you could help ease your family into this transition.

The start and end of DST could cause sleep issues for children and parents. Young kids will have to wake earlier after falling back, and teens will end up struggling after "springing forward" and “losing an hour of sleep”.  For those woken by children in the morning, the "falling back" can be painful.  Parents that are tired will lose either way.

You can help cushion the blow by making slight adjustments in your child's sleep schedule ahead of time to ease into the transition.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.