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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.