We all know about the benefits of sleep, it will recharge our little bodies to produce energy for our go-go lifestyles, but why are we forced to “gain” an hour of it in the fall only to subsequently “lose” an hour in the spring? Ah yes, the ever discussed, sometimes controversial, Daylight Savings Time (DST) clock change. Falling back to the actual standard time occurred last night (although technically this morning at two) but why do we do it? What possible benefit could it have to mess with our body clocks for a few days every six or so months?
Spring forward, fall back. We are probably all aware of the seemingly timeless expression by now. It may surprise people outside of Arizona, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands and Hawaii to learn that there is no federal mandate on states to implement this. Say what? That is right my friends, there is no one forcing us to collectively spring forward but we have been doing it on and off for the past ninety years as a way to ensure electric energy savings as well as a way to standardize the schedules of trains, which began to grow in frequency near the end of the nineteenth century.
To make sure that everyone could get to their train on time the concept of time had to be implemented and in 1883 a bunch of big wigs from the railroad deemed what we now know as time zones. Considering they were the most likely to benefit from standardized time, the oversight of this concept has remained with the Department of Transportation.
Now some may be asking -- OK, so that part about saving electricity, how does that factor in? Great question!
In general our body clock tells us that we should rise when it is light and sleep when it is dark. This is not to say that there are some who buck that trend, such as night shift workers, or vampires, but for the majority of us it rings true. In the fall it gets darker earlier so once the sun does set we are supposed to just go to bed. Consequently, in spring, we gain an hour on the clock (this is the DST by the way, fall is the “actual time”) so we have more natural light when the weather is getting warmer to get outside and enjoy nature instead of trapping ourselves indoors with our little boxes of wattage; gaining an hour of daylight will keep us from turning on those pesky energy sucking devices like computers, televisions and lights for another hour.
In theory it sounds wonderful but as our dependence on technology increases and focuses less on the world around us, it is fair to wonder -- is there still a notable savings in electricity usage? There certainly could be if we allow DST to do what it was designed for. We should all use it to its greatest advantage, ensure that it does create a marked difference, so make use of the extra hour of sunlight and read instead of watching television or take a vigorous evening stroll to see the last of the golden leaves.
So on Tuesday when everyone briskly walks to their local polling station to voice their own personal choice, please be mindful of the time of the setting sun. Be safe and bring a flashlight, lantern, glow stick or other means of attraction such as reflective stickers or flashing lights so passing cars will “hit” the polls, not our nation’s energy savers.