Welcome to Daylight Saving Time (DST) – that time of year when we set our clocks an hour forward. While many – including my husband – love the extra hour of daylight in the evening, the loss of that hour of sleep in the morning can be brutal.
The idea may have been the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, who theorized that since people were sleeping past the dawn and using candles at night, adjusting the clocks forward would have people up at dawn (early to rise, after all), and would save on candle wax in the evening.
I remember when DST was widely extended in the United States during the energy crisis of the early 70’s. The theory then was families wouldn’t use as much electricity in the evenings if there was natural light longer. While as a kid, I did enjoy the benefit of playing outside longer (we didn’t have to come home until the streetlights came on), but I didn’t at all like leaving for school in the grey dawn.
In 2005, President George Bush signed into law an energy bill that extended DST an additional 4 weeks, effective in 2007. This new DST schedule now has us springing forward three weeks earlier (the second Sunday in March – which technically isn’t even spring yet!) and falling back 1 week later (to the first Sunday in November). The change to November feels especially strange as now Halloween – that bastion of fall – is part of DST. That’s just not right…. It’s now still light out when the little ones start their trecks around the neighborhood.
Interestingly, there is no consensus on the question of whether or not DST actually saves energy. But people who love DST are adamant that it wouldn’t be summer without it and relish that extra hour of light in the evening.
But, aside from the hassle of changing our clocks and a few grumpy wake-ups, is there really any harm being done?
Many experts say yes… That the time change – particularly the losing of an hour in March, causes serious disturbances in our sleep patterns. The American Journal of Cardiology even found that there is a “short-term increased incidence ratio” (in other words, a “spike”) in heart attacks during the first week of DST. When we’re stressed and not getting as much sleep, we are at greater risk for cardiac events. Messing with our sleep patterns – which can be challenging for some of us in the first place – can be downright problemmatic: sleepiness, impaired memory, and cognitive issues to name a few. And, we also know that tired people are more likely to cave to their cravings (for sugar and processed carbs) and need additional stimulants (like coffee) to get them going in the morning. DST may just be messing with your waistline and your productivity at the same time!
The debate rages on – tell us what you think!