The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Mornings get brighter and evenings darker as clocks ‘fall back’

(John Sonderman <a href="">via Flickr</a> )

At 2 a.m. Sunday, as Halloween celebrations came to an end, clocks turned back one hour to return to standard time.

The clock shift means we enjoy an extra hour of sleep this morning (especially for the late-night Halloween revelers). Early risers will awaken to brighter mornings, and school kids won’t be waiting at the bus stop in the dark. On the flip side, the sun will set an hour earlier, so get ready for a dark commute home from work and candles on the dinner table.

Unless you live at the western edge of a time zone or in the South, most places will see sunset around 5 p.m. or earlier. In D.C., Sunday’s sunrise and sunset move back to 6:35 a.m. and 5:08 p.m., respectively, compared to a 7:34 a.m. sunrise and 6:09 p.m. sunset on Saturday.

Then from Nov. 10 through Jan. 4, the sun will be setting before 5 p.m., reminding us that the darkest months of the year are now upon us.

Should we keep DST year-round?

Every spring and fall the debate revives — is daylight saving time worth the hassle? Some argue that instead of changing the clocks, we should go on DST year-round.

There are many pros to the year-round concept, the least of which is not having to ever change your clocks. But we often hear people argue against the idea of darker mornings. However, unless you live in the western part of a time zone, are mornings really that dark – or is this just a reflection of our early-riser society?

Even around the shortest days of the year, most major U.S. cities see sunrise before 7:30 a.m. during standard time. That means it already starts getting light by 7 a.m. Many other countries at higher latitudes (Britain, Canada or Germany) have to contend with sunrise well after 8-8:30 a.m. during winter, even while they are on standard time. People there go to school and work in the dark because there are just fewer hours of daylight.

According to new research by the Brookings Institution, never having to “fall back” again could save the United States billions of dollars a year by reducing crime that takes place in the evening hours. “People also often cite schoolkids waiting for buses in the dark as an argument against yearlong DST,” The Post’s Chris Ingraham wrote Thursday. “But the dangers of standing around in the early morning hours are probably overstated — especially considering, as the Brookings paper shows, that many types of criminals don’t seem to be active during these hours.”

[Why daylight saving time is even more awesome than you think]

Most major population centers in the United States are situated far enough south and/or in the eastern part of their respective time zones that we could sacrifice an hour of morning light. Even in our most northern major cities (Boston, Minneapolis or Seattle) year-round daylight saving time would mean it would start getting light between 8 and 8:30 a.m. during winter. While that may sound late, it would also push sunset past 5 p.m. even in December.

Some say split the difference by setting the clocks back 30 minutes and keeping them there permanently. The problem is this would put the U.S. half an hour out of sync with most of the world’s respective clock times (though, there are a few countries that do this).

Either way, the debate about whether we’re best served by more morning or evening light shows that no matter how we shift our clocks, we’re entering the time of year when there’s not enough daylight to keep both early birds and night owls happy.