‘It’s the only way we can progress in society’: students reflect on “fall back”

By Sasha Zirin

Last March, the Senate unanimously approved the Sunshine Protection Act, a federal law that concretes daylight saving time as the standard year-round time in the U.S., putting an end to the twice-annual changing of clocks in the spring and fall. 

The act is currently making its way through the House of Representatives, but there is no known agreement within the House at present.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) stated for The Hill that “There are a broad variety of opinions about whether to keep the status quo, to move to a permanent time, and if so, what time that should be.”

Said to “reduce crime, encourage kids to play outside and lower the risk of heart attacks and car accidents” according to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’s proposal from NBC, the Sunshine Protection Act goes unsupported by sleep experts, who still support standard time over the permanence of daylight saving time.

November’s “fall back”—reverting the clocks back an hour to standard time—results in earlier sunrises and sunsets. Less sunlight later in the day leaves Yabisi Asili, a first year visual arts major, disappointed.

“If I [sleep in] on a Saturday I’ll get kind of depressed sometimes because it feels like my day has gone away,” Asili said.

March’s “spring forward,” can also be rough, due to an hour of sleep being lost.

“[Daylight saving time] doesn’t seem necessary right now. It’s not good for [your sleep] and takes two weeks to adjust,” Asili said. 

The National Institute of Medicine writes that the daylight saving spring shift has “a[n] effect of sleep loss[,] at least across the following week,” and that the fall shift leads to “little evidence of extra sleep on that night, and the autumn change suggests a net loss of sleep across the week.”

However, the National Institute of Medicine adds that circadian rhythms—the body’s natural sleep schedule—depend on the individual, leading daylight saving to have varied effects. In their report about college students, it’s written that “young adults tend to [be] ‘night owls,’” and “many college students are sleep deprived.”

The issue with the time change goes beyond sleep deprivation. For first-year creative writing major Ethan Richmond, the daylight saving shifts feel needless in the modern age.

“We’ve kept it going because of our country’s horrible addiction to tradition over common sense,” he said.

According to the Smithsonian Mag, year-round daylight saving was implemented in the U.S. during World War I and World War II due to corporate interest—more daylight in the evenings lengthened working hours and reduced the need for artificial lighting. It was established permanently by former President Richard Nixon in 1974.

A press release from the office of State Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said the motion to remove the shifts received a “very strong response” that the law would “benefit the American economy and public health,” and “reduce rates of seasonal depression.”

According to the National Library of Medicine, college students—especially those who had moved from warmer climates to New England for school—are at risk for seasonal depression. “Prevalence rates for [seasonal affective] and sub-[seasonal affective] combined [in college students were]… 13.2 and 19.7%, respectively,” wrote NLM.

“There’s definitely something [during the winter] that causes people… to have an inherent sadness,” said first-year visual media arts major Aiden Cass. 

Cass is from western Massachusetts and experiences the cold weather annually, which can be difficult due to less daylight to spend time outside and be active.

Asili and his friend first-year visual media arts major Cooper Rich plan to cope with the cold and seasonal depression through winter fashion, appreciating the snow, and using the time indoors to watch movies and work on projects. 

“I’m so used to it, but I’m also kind of sick of it,” said Rich, who is also from western Massachusetts.

Jackson Boudman, a first-year writing, literature, and publishing major, likes winter, but has never experienced it in a city—only in rural New Hampshire. 

“A lot of my enjoyment of winter is going out in the woods and there aren’t any woods here,” he said.

He also believes people have been thinking about daylight saving time incorrectly. 

“I believe that [the time shifts] should be switched around,” he said. “I like summer nights, and wintertime stays darker for a longer amount of time [regardless]. If we switched [the time shifts] around we’d have an equal amount of daylight all year long.”

Despite this, he still supports the prospect of daylight saving being eliminated. 

“We have to be open to change because it’s the only way we can progress in society,” he said.