12 Surprising Effects of Daylight Saving Time

bee32/iStock via Getty Images
bee32/iStock via Getty Images

Every March, clocks "spring forward" across much of the United States, robbing people of one precious hour of sleep. In November, those same clocks "fall back," giving them 60 extra minutes of shut-eye. While hearing people complain about missed alarm clocks is one not-so-surprising effect of Daylight Saving Time, the possibility of a longer prison sentence for those going before a judge on "sleepy Monday" is less expected. Here are 12 surprising effects of Daylight Saving Time—the good, the bad, and the scientifically ambiguous.

1. Increased Spending

Woman whips out her credit card while hanging out on a hammock
iStock.com/martin-dm

In 2016, JP Morgan Chase decided to look into the economic consequences of Daylight Saving Time (DST) by examining Los Angeles and Phoenix, two cities that are large, relatively close to each other, and have stable weather. Critically, Phoenix doesn't observe DST while Los Angeles does [PDF].

Among their findings, DST was "associated with a 0.9 percent increase in daily card spending per capita in Los Angeles at the beginning of DST." Perhaps more surprising, the end of DST was associated with a per capita daily spending reduction of 3.9 percent.

2. A Higher Risk of Heart Attacks

An image of a man grabbing his chest.
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Many studies have shown that DST is associated with an increase in heart attacks, with one study showing a 24 percent increase in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after DST at a group of Michigan hospitals. According to the University of Michigan, Mondays are bad for heart attacks in general (researchers believes the stress of beginning a new workweek and changes to the sleep-wake cycle are the reason why), but DST makes everything worse. Interestingly, the Tuesday following the end of DST was associated with a 21 percent drop in patients.

3. Missed Appointments

Young man runs to catch a missed train
iStock.com/Drazen_

Somewhat relatedly, a 2017 study found that the percentage of missed medical appointments increased significantly following DST. But as with heart attack risk, the missed appointments decreased in the fall—at least temporarily.

4. More Car Accidents … Maybe (at Least for a Few Days)

An image of a car with a broken headline after being in an accident.
iStock.com/CHRISsadowski

Another field where studies aren't as consistent as one might expect is traffic accidents. In 2001, an American study found that there was a significant increase in accidents on the Monday after the shift to DST. A 2018 New Zealand study echoed the sentiment, finding that on the first day of DST road accidents increased 16 percent. In contrast, a Swedish study found that DST didn't have any important effect in that country.

Of course, there's more to DST than just those first couple days. After DST has gotten started, there's more light on the road later in the day. Several studies have found this light reduces accidents substantially, so much so that one study concluded that a year-round DST would reduce motor vehicle occupant fatalities by 195 per year.

It's so complicated that a 2010 analysis in Minnesota listed 10 studies that found positive effects of DST on road safety, and six studies that showed negative effects in both the spring and fall changes.

5. Longer Prison Sentences

A photo of a judge handing out a sentence with a clock sitting next to her
ISTOCK.COM/TZAHIV

Researchers frequently use DST to study sleep deprivation in populations, as it's a period of time when we all wake up an hour before we’re used to. One of these studies focused specifically on judicial punishment in U.S. federal courts. The researchers looked at "sleepy Monday" (the Monday after the time change) and compared the sentence lengths to other Mondays. They found that on "sleepy Monday," judges handed out 5 percent longer sentences. But don't think you can get a lighter sentence during the fall switch; the researchers found no effect on sentencing at that time. But the researchers point out that this probably isn't limited to judges—even managers may find themselves in the mood for doling out harsher punishments.

6. More Mining Injuries

An image of mining helmets on a shelf.
iStock.com/dannyfroese

According to one study of mining injuries from 1983 to 2006, the Monday directly after the switch to DST was associated with 5.7 percent more workplace injuries and 68 percent more workdays lost because of injuries, indicating that there are more injuries that are more severe after the switch [PDF]. There isn't, however, a corresponding decrease in the fall.

7. Fewer Koala Collisions

A street sign warns of koala bears
iStock.com/hidesy

One study decided to look at how DST affected human-wildlife interaction, specifically koala-vehicle collisions [PDF]. Because koalas are largely nocturnal, they often cross the road in the evening or at night. By shifting traffic patterns to times when it wasn't dark, the researchers found that DST could "decrease collisions with koalas by 8 percent on weekdays and 11 percent at weekends" (although the difference between weekend and weekdays wasn't significant, the researchers proposed that a slight increase in morning collisions lessened the benefit during the weekday). The researchers hope that further study can be done on human-animal interactions and DST.

Koalas aren't the only ones crossing a road that benefit from DST; pedestrians might be safer as well. One study found "no significant detrimental effect on automobile crashes in the short run" and in the long run was associated with "a 8 to 11 percent fall in crashes involving pedestrians … in the weeks after the spring shift to DST." Meanwhile, another study found that a year-long DST would mean 171 fewer pedestrian fatalities a year.

8. Decreased Satisfaction With Life in General (and Increased Use of the Word Tired)

A woman sitting in front of a computer looking tired.
istock.com/PeopleImages

In both the UK and Germany, studies have shown that life satisfaction deteriorates in the first week after the switch to DST in the spring. One study even quantified the deterioration in Germany with money. For the entire sample, the cost was calculated to be €213 (about $262), but for people in full employment—with relatively inflexible schedules—that increases to €332 ($408). And for the men in the sample, the cost of transition was €396 ($487).

Meanwhile, a Facebook analysis looked at the "feelings" people were sharing on the platform. On the Monday after the start of DST, the use of the word tired increased by 25 percent, with similar increases for "sleepy" and "exhausted" (as well as "wonderful" and "great"). In just the period from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday, "feeling tired" usage increased an average of 86 percent, from a 12 percent increase in the non-DST Arizona up to a 231 percent increase in Delaware. By Thursday, "tired" is back to normal.

9. Sleepier Kids (Maybe)

A little girl sleeping with her mouth open.
iStock.com/quintanilla

The studies surrounding DST and school children are surprisingly inconclusive. On the one side, a 2009 article in Sleep Medicine looked at 469 Germans from 10 to 20 years old and divided them up into 'larks' (those who go to bed early and wake up early) and 'owls' (those who go to bed late and wake up late). They found that after the DST transition the group was sleepier for three weeks after the transition, with owls showing higher daytime sleepiness, and proposed that tests shouldn't take place in the week following the switch over to DST.

A 2017 article in Economics of Education Review, however, looked at 22,000 Europeans students and found that, at least for low-stakes tests, the effect wasn't statistically significant.

10. More Cyberloafing on the Job

A woman gets caught cyberloafing at work
iStock.com/Manuel-F-O

Another study looked at people's Google search trends for the Mondays before the switch to DST, immediately after the switch, and a week after, with a specific focus on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and ESPN (i.e. entertainment sites that people probably aren't Googling for their jobs). They found that on the Monday after the switch, people searched for 3.1 percent more entertainment websites than the Monday before DST, and 6.4 percent more than the subsequent Monday. While the researchers caution they can't be sure this was all "cyberloafing," the fact that there was nothing else special about these Mondays meant it very likely was.

11. Mistimed Insulin Shots

A woman injecting herself with an insulin pen.
iStock.com/6okean

It might seem that in this age of smartphones and connected devices that figure it all out, the twice-yearly ritual of finding all the clocks to change is a thing of the past. But that's not necessarily true. In a 2014 article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, the authors pointed out an easy clock to miss: insulin pumps. Because most commercial pumps aren't GPS-enabled and lack internal time change mechanisms, they have to be manually set up. The study authors discuss an international college student with an insulin pump that came from a country that didn't observe DST, meaning the clock was an hour off. They say that no significant harm resulted, but it just serves as a reminder to make sure you check all your clocks.

12. Higher Energy Bills

Man reviews an energy bill on a tablet app
iStock.com/baloon111

One of the main rallying cries for DST is that it saves energy, but studies have been mixed. In 1975 the Department of Transportation issued a report about whether a short-lived, year-long DST experiment had been worthwhile [PDF]. They declared "modest overall benefits might be realized by a shift from the historic six-month DST system," but cautioned that these benefits were difficult to isolate. Optimistically, though, they said DST might help reduce 1 percent of electricity use.

But as modern researchers have noted, electricity usage has shifted since then. Chief among the changes: Only 46 percent of the new single family households completed in 1975 had air conditioning, compared to 93 percent in 2016 [PDF].

Indiana provided a good place to test this change, because in 2006 they decided to observe DST as an entire state (individual counties had observed DST before). A study ultimately concluded that while DST does save electricity in lighting, this is more than offset by increased demands for heating and cooling, resulting in Indiana households being hit by $9 million per year in higher electricity bills [PDF]. However, the study only looked at residential electricity consumption, not commercial or industrial.

Around the same time, the Department of Energy also looked into DST and found that during a four-week extension, electricity use decreased about half a percentage point per day. Ultimately, Stanton Hadley at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory told Live Science, "I could see the answer being either way."

This story originally ran in 2018.

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

11 Unusual Christmas Traditions Around the World

A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
R. fiend, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

We all know about the typical trappings of Christmas—Santa, the tree, eggnog and carols, turkey and ham, that fruitcake that’s made three trips around the country and counting. But what about traditions that are generally less well-known in America—the ones that might take place halfway around the world? Traditions like the Swedes watching the same Donald Duck cartoon each year, the Japanese devouring KFC, or Austria’s “bad Santa,” Krampus? Allow us to take you on a journey with the international Christmas traditions below.

1. Sweden // Watching Donald Duck on Television

Every year at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, around half of Sweden sits down to watch the 1958 Walt Disney TV special “From All of Us to All of You.” Known in Swedish as Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul, the title translates to “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas.” But, really, it’s usually known as Kalle Anka. Since 1959, the show has been airing without commercial interruption at the same time every December 24 on TV1, Sweden’s main public television channel. According to Slate, it’s one of the three most popular TV events each year, and lines of the cartoon’s dialogue have become common Swedish parlance.

Slate’s Jeremy Stahl, who remembers his first Christmas visiting Sweden with his soon-to-be-wife, observes, “I was taken aback not only by the datedness of the clips (and the somewhat random dubbing) but also by how seriously my adoptive Swedish family took the show. Nobody talked, except to recite favorite lines along with the characters." Stahl notes that for many Swedes, other Christmas Eve festivities revolve around watching the show—what time they eat the Christmas meal, for example—and that, although the tradition may seem strange, it also makes some sense: “For many Swedes, there is something comforting about knowing that every year there is one hour, on one day, when you sit down with everyone in your family and just be together.”

2. Venezuela // Roller Skating to Christmas Eve Mass

Roller skates on a wooden background
xavigm/iStock via Getty Images

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, it’s a long-established tradition to strap on your skates and roll on over to morning Christmas mass. According to Metro.co.uk, legend has it that children go to bed with a piece of string tied to their toes, with the other end dangling out the window. As the skaters glide by early the next morning, they give the strings a firm tug to let the children know it’s time to wake up and put on their skates. Firecrackers accompany the sound of the church bells, and when mass is finished, everyone gathers for food, music, and dance. The custom continues today.

3. Japan // Eating KFC on Christmas Eve

A KFC in Japan at Christmas
A KFC in Japan at Christmas
Robert Sanzalone, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Christmas isn't a widely celebrated holiday in Japan—a mere 1 percent of Japanese people are estimated to be Christian—and yet a bucket of KFC “Christmas Chicken” is the popular meal on December 24. According to the BBC, 3.6 million families celebrated this way in 2016.

It all began with a 1974 marketing campaign—“Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii” (Kentucky for Christmas). According to Smithsonian, when a group of foreigners couldn’t find Christmas turkey and opted for KFC instead, the company saw it as a fabulous marketing opportunity and advertised its first Christmas meal—chicken and wine for the equivalent of $10, which, Smithsonian notes, was rather pricey for the mid-'70s. These days, the Christmas dinner includes cake and champagne, and costs roughly $40. Many people order their meals far in advance to avoid lines; those who forget can end up waiting for as long as two hours.

4. Ukraine // Decorating the Tree with (Fake) Spiders and Webs

A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
Marty Gabel, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to Ukrainian folklore, there was a poor family with a widowed single mother who couldn’t afford to decorate their Christmas tree. One night, as they all slept, a wonderful Christmas spider decorated the tree with a beautiful, sparkly web. The rays of the sun touched the web, turning it to silver and gold, and from that day on the family wanted for nothing. Ukrainian families decorate their trees with glittering spiders and their webs in honor of the tale.

5. Guatemala // La Quema del Diablo, “Burning the Devil”

Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Conred Guatemala, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Every December 7, beginning at 6 p.m. sharp, Guatemalans build bonfires to “burn the devil” and kick off their Christmas season. The tradition has particular significance in Guatemala City, according to National Geographic, due to its association with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which honors the city’s patron saint. The tradition evolved from simply lighting bonfires during colonial times to burning a devil figure to clear the way for a celebration of the Virgin Mary. In recent years, devil piñatas have been added to the festivities, too. These days, an estimated 500,000 bonfires burn in the course of an hour on the holiday, and fireworks explode across the smoky sky.

6. Catalonia // Caganer, the Pooping Christmas Figurine

A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
J2R/iStock via Getty Images

A regular figure in Catalonian nativity scenes, the caganer is a bare-bottomed man with his pants around his knees as he bends over to poop. He typically wears a white shirt and a barretina, a traditional Catalan hat. The caganer most likely first appeared in nativity scenes in the early 18th century; nativity scenes in the region typically represent pastoral scenes with depictions of rural life. The caganer often appears crouched behind a tree or a building in a corner of the nativity. Caganer literally means “pooper” in Catalan, and no one is certain of his significance, though one theory is that he represents good luck and the wish for a prosperous new year, since the pooping could be construed as the fertilization of the earth. Another theory is that he represents the mischief that resides in all of us. Yet another theory: he could merely represent humility and humanity. After all, everyone poops.

7. Wales // Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare”

Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is the name given to the ghostly looking horse figure often brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales. Typically constructed of a horse skull, a white sheet, and adorned with colorful ribbons and bells, the Mari Lwyd is carried around Welsh towns by singing revelers who challenge their neighbors to a battle of wits through poetry. Atlas Obscura explains that despite often being associated with Christmas, Mari Lwyd is actually a pre-Christian practice, and some Welsh towns choose instead to parade their horse skulls on other days, such as Halloween or May Day. However, the Christmas season is the most popular time for Mari Lwyd, and the practice often includes wassailing, which involves the drinking of a boozy, sugared-and-spiced ale.

8. Austria and German-speaking Alpine region // Krampus, the Christmas Devil

Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day
Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day in Italy
dario_tommaseo/iStock via Getty Images

While well-behaved children in Austria and elsewhere look forward to St. Nicholas rewarding them with presents and sweets, those on the naughty list live in fear of Krampus. Part demon and part goat, Krampus is a “bad Santa” devil-like figure with origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, Krampus became a part of Christian traditions alongside the celebrating of St. Nick. During Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” right before St. Nicholas Day, adults dress up as Krampus, and Krampus might also be seen on a Krampuslauf—literally a “Krampus run.” He also appears on Christmas cards throughout Austria, and enjoys a long-held place in the country’s holiday traditions, as well as in other German-speaking areas near the Alps.

9. Iceland // The Yule Cat

Iceland has its own frightening Christmas figure, the Yule cat, which lurks in the snow and waits to devour anyone who has not received new clothes to wear for Christmas. National Geographic did some digging into the origins of this tradition, and notes that in Icelandic rural societies employers often rewarded members of their households with new clothes and sheepskin shoes each year as a way to encourage everyone to work hard in the lead-up to Christmas. “To this day Icelanders still find it important to wear new clothes on Christmas Eve when the celebrations begin,” the website writes. So, basically, the Yule cat punishes the lazy by devouring them, though, as National Geographic observes, “According to some tales, the Yule Cat only eats their food and presents, not the actual people.” Whew!

10. Greenland // Whale Blubber Dinner

Although women around the world have often traditionally prepared the Christmas meal, in Greenland the men serve the women. The main dish is mattak, strips of whale blubber, as well as kiviak, flesh from auks buried in sealskin for several months and then served once it begins to decompose. Dessert is a little more familiar: Christmas porridge garnished with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

11. Italy // Befana, the Christmas Witch

Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
corradobarattaphotos, iStock via Getty Images

Like Austria’s Krampus, Italy’s Christmas witch, Befana, is scary-looking—she has the warts and the sharp nose of the typical witch depiction—and yet every January 5 she leaves gifts and sweets for the good children. Of course, she also leaves coal for the naughty ones. According to legend, she swoops up the particularly bad children and brings them home to her child-eating husband. According to Vice, Italy honors Befana with festivals each year, complete with market stalls, raffles, games, and prizes. Children also write letters to Befana just as they do to Santa Claus.

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