Sunday, November 2, 2008

Get Back, Jack

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.


Devin said...

voted in your poll.Great tip on saving energy.I love reading reading your blog you give such great tips:0)

Bridgete said...

I hate DST. Not only does it mess with my body clock, it messes with my cat as well. Or any other domestic animals. Pets and livestock expect to be fed/walked/milked/loved at certain times. They expect you to leave and come home at a certain time. They expect you to get up at a certain time and go to bed at a certain time. But the clock dictates when we do these things so when the clock changes, we change. But the animal doesn't. They can't tell time by a clock, they tell time by the sun. I think it's highly unfair to the animals to force them to change their habits just because we've decided the clock should say something different.

Aside from animals - what about babies? They're still on a natural body clock. They expect to be fed and loved at certain times. They're going to cry when they need to, no matter what the clock says and hopefully the parent will respond no matter what the clock says.

With all that, I don't really think the minor benefits of DST really outweigh the disadvantages. Not when we're wasting electricity on a grander scale than the hour difference will help (think stores/office buildings/schools/etc. that leave lights on all day, every day).

Oh, and I think you have fall backwards. Setting the clock back an hour means that it gets as dark as it was getting at 5 pm at 4 pm instead. We don't gain an evening hour, we lose one. We gain a morning hour, so when we get up the sun has already risen (depending on when you get up) so we don't need to turn on lights to get dressed.

Jenn said...

But the clock dictates when we do these things so when the clock changes, we change. But the animal doesn't

Thanks for that perspective Bridgete, it is something that does not effect me personally as I do not have pets but it is always good to remind ourselves that everything we do is connected to everything else. Does your cat begin to adjust after a couple days or does it take longer (if ever) to get on the new "clock"?

I appreciate you pointing out the mistake as well in the fall/spring time frame paragraph. I was attempting to say that but it really came out worded all wrong so I just fixed it now.

As a side note, I am not a fan of DST either but just figure since I can't be the one to make the rules when it comes to that the best I can do is work with it. In general I am not a fan of the clock. Time and the perception of early or late are concepts I wish were never invented, too much pressure!

Jenn said...

Oh and as another side note, one of the main reasons I am not a fan of DST is because my sister lives in a state that does not participate (AZ) so every six months it takes us weeks to remember what time we can call each other -- are we 2 or 3 hours difference now? Definitely a pain.

Bridgete said...

It usually takes them a week or so, depending on how many needs you're satisfying based on a schedule. Cats are easy since you just have to readjust their feeding schedule. But, of course, for that first week they can be pretty irritating since most cats I know are pretty demanding when it's time to be fed. And my cat is very vocal so he likes to complain about everything. That means that when I start getting up and leaving and coming home at a different time, he has to yell at me about it for a couple weeks, even after he's readjusted to the food thing.

Regarding your AZ side note, I agree that makes it pretty irritating too. My friend lives in Hawaii, another non-participating state. It's hard enough to figure out the time difference between Mass. and Hawaii without the whole DST thing too.

Thanks for fixing the fall time thing. I was really confused about that, it took me a few minutes to puzzle it out. =)

High Desert Diva said...

There was so much info here I didn't know. Thanks for the research!

High Desert Diva said...

Just read this to Mark. He said he had heard it was all due to economics...people go out and spend more during daylight hours. Did a little research and found this webpage:
The Indiana study was interesting, as well as the walker fatality stats.

Hyla Waldron said...

I had no idea! Thanks for the enlightenment!