It's the time of year that many Americans eagerly anticipate. No, it's not college basketball's March Madness -- or even the coming of spring. It's the return of daylight saving time, when most households in the U.S. advance their clocks one hour ahead, providing them an additional hour of daylight at the end of the day.

For many people, the additional hour of sunlight gives them a chance to work in the garden or fire up the grill for dinner and not have to worry about toiling away in the darkness. For others, it means simply completing the evening commute before nightfall.

But the change in time can be problematic for some -- especially those who forget to change their clocks before heading to bed Saturday night. Further, as the days have grown longer in recent weeks, many people have become accustomed to rising in the morning with sunlight. Pushing the clock ahead an hour means that some will once again awake to darkness.

Further, though most people appreciate adding daylight to the end of the day, a recent survey showed, perhaps surprisingly, that about a third of Americans "dread" having to turn their clocks ahead an hour, according to a recent poll by mattress-retailer Sleepy's.

The study also showed that about half of the 1,000 adults surveyed believe they've found a solution for the sluggishness that some people experience after the change in time. They favor moving the time change to 2 a.m. Saturday from 2 a.m. Sunday, a shift, Sleepy's says, that theoretically would soften the Monday morning "clock shock" that many feel as they begin the workweek.

An Early Attempt to Save Energy


Daylight saving (not "savings") time got its start in the early part of the last century. The idea to move clocks ahead an hour in the spring so the sun appeared to rise and set an hour later was devised in 1917 by Robert Garland, an industrialist and Pittsburgh city councilman, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The plan provided more hours of usable daylight for both outdoor occupations and recreational activities, while helping to conserve electricity. President Woodrow Wilson signed a law establishing daylight saving time across the United States in 1918, only to have it repealed one year later. In the years following, only a handful of U.S. cities maintained daylight time until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, instituting a consistent daylight saving time.

By the time the 1973 oil shortage hit, Congress placed most of the nation on extended daylight saving time for two years in an attempt to save fuel. A Department of Transportation study at the time revealed a significant cutback in energy use -- nearly 10,000 barrels of oil daily.
Of course, not everyone believes that daylight saving time saves energy. As we reported last year:
One expert argues that daylight saving time actually increases gasoline consumption, since Americans spend the additional daylight in their cars going shopping or running other errands.
Spring Forward, Fall Back

There's a mnemonic device many people use to remember to turn clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back to standard time in the fall: "spring forward; fall back." But that doesn't make it any easier for those who find themselves dragging after the time switch.

They may want to embrace another custom not nearly so old -- National Napping Day, which, conveniently, falls on Monday, the day after clocks are moved ahead. The trick, of course, is how to work in that quick snooze while on the job.

Given the nation's still sluggish job market, workers might be more inclined to take a quick trip to Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up rather than risk being caught by the boss mid-slumber.

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