Blustery cold wind and the threat of snow the first week of March, sun and unseasonable warmth predicted for the second. This weather whiplash makes a body do a double-take. But if you find yourself feeling out of sorts in the coming weeks, it may not be the weather. It could be the time change.
Yep, it’s that time of year again–the time to SPRING FORWARD into Daylight Saving Time. In the wee hours of Sunday, March 10, you will lose an hour of sleep. But for the next eight months or so, you will have gained an hour of light each day. (Well, I suppose it all depends on when you get up, doesn’t it? Your life may not change at all, but the clock will.)
We owe it all to an Englishman who made the first real push for Daylight Saving Time (not “Savings”) in the early 1900’s. He was an avid golfer who wanted to be able to take advantage of an extra hour of light. His DST idea never really caught on.
The real beginning of DST was in 1918 during World War I–for the purpose of saving energy–but it wasn’t a popular idea. It faded away only to resurface in World War II. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, different regions could do whatever they wished as far as observing DST or not.
Because of this freedom of choice, at one point in history, a 35-mile trip from a small town in West Virginia to another town in Ohio meant resetting one’s watch seven times! Finally, in 1966, DST became standard practice legally.
Most areas of our country observe the time change. Some have been granted exemptions: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and much of Arizona.
Be that as it may, DST is an annual fact of life for us, whether or not we want to spring ahead. Another given is that the change will probably affect most of us physiologically. Science has proven this conclusively, so get ready. I’ve always noticed that I feel draggy for a few days after the change, a little “out-of-sorts,” somewhat lethargic. I’ll bet some of you feel this apathy and exhaustion, too.
One explanation is that our bodies have their own clocks—something called our circadian rhythms. When the body’s clock is interfered with, bodily functions will naturally be affected. Take heart–the first few days are usually the worst. However, a disruption in our circadian rhythms can cause problems for a few weeks or until the natural rhythms of our bodies are reset and humming along in the new beat of life.
The time change can even be dangerous. Studies show that there is an increase in heart attacks immediately after we spring forward, as opposed to a decrease when we fall back in November. The number of traffic accidents also jumps up for a few days after the time change in March. (Once we acclimate to the switch, traffic accidents actually decrease, studies say.)
Here are some good tips I have found that help me adjust, since my body seems especially affected by changes in light. For some reason, standing in bright light early in the morning speeds up the regulation of the body’s clock. Some experts recommend limiting strenuous work for a couple of days after the change. (I’m okay with that; how ’bout you?!) Keeping a light schedule and driving less are also smart ideas.
Just think–it won’t be long before we should be sweet and energetic again after a few days of orneriness and slothfulness! And the added advantage is that we can stay outside longer at night after a hard day at work! YES! I am a DST kind of gal.
But just why do we need to make the time change each spring? I’ve always heard that we make the switch to conserve energy. In reality, studies haven’t proven conclusively that this is true. In fact, DST may increase energy use. People tend to do more driving with the extra hour of light. They golf and shop more. They even grill out more often. Just because we may not have to turn on the lights until later at night doesn’t mean we aren’t using more gasoline and/or power.
Despite the indications that DST may not avail us in the energy realm, I must admit that I heartily anticipate the extra hour in the evening. Isn’t it thrilling to be outside at 9 p.m. in June while the sun is still up? Yes, I always dread losing that hour of sleep when we make the switch, but it seems worth it to have the light. And when autumn comes, I never look forward to going back to “real” time.
In a sense, though, it’s all an illusion. Moving the clock forward seems to increase the light, but technically that’s not true at all. We still have the same number of daylight hours as if we had left the time the same. It merely increases our time frame–and therefore our opportunities–to enjoy the light.
And how we love the light! I believe that God–who is the Light of the World–created us to be creatures of the light.
Light works wonders for the body. Many people get SAD when the light begins to decrease in the fall. And that has a double meaning: sad as in despondent and SAD as in Seasonal Affective Disorder—a negative physical/mental disturbance caused by the loss of daylight. So doesn’t it seem logical that an increase in light would make our bodies react positively?
It sure works out that way for me. Can you deny the lilt in your step when the March days begin to tease us with springtime? Don’t you feel even more joyful to be alive on such days? It makes me think of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem I have often read to my children. It’s called “Happy Thought” and is very short: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”
As the Cowardly Lion says in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth?”
That’s the way I feel, and I hope you do, too. The economy may still look dismal and politics are a mess, but when life gives us lemons, join me and let’s make some collective lemonade. We have eight long months ahead of us to enjoy an extra hour of light each evening. And spring arrives in just few days. I say, “Bring on the light!”