On Again Off Again Time

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina on Pexels.com

Every time we have a time change, controversy ensues. Some like having more light in the afternoon and others prefer having light in the morning even if it means getting dark sooner in the evening. Then there are those who just want to choose one of the above and stick with it all year long like the folks in Arizona do. The fact is that there is going to be the same amount of light during the various seasons of the year regardless of whether we have standard or daylight saving time.

For morning people standard time is the bomb. It’s tough to get up when it feels like the middle of the night even for souls who seem to automatically wake up at five in the morning. It’s even worse for children and nothing bothers me more than seeing little ones standing at the bus stop when it is still so dark that the cars have to use their lights. It really seems unnatural and maybe even a bit cruel to watch little folk trudging half asleep into school. Sometimes the smallest ones have to be carried inside wailing that they want to go back home. In cases like that  I cast my vote for standard time so that our smallest folk can sleep until the sun peeks out over the horizon. It seems far more humane than what now takes place for too much of the school year. 

When I was kid the school day did not even begin until almost nine o’clock. I walked to the campus everyday and I don’t ever recall doing that in the dark. By eight thirty when I left home for my journey the sun lit my way and I felt quite rested. I did not know at the time that our bodies react to sunrise by stopping the flow of melatonin in our brains. If it is dark outside when we must awake it is far more difficult than when the sun is shining because our bodies are often still producing a sleep inducing chemical. We have to fight to get the energy to drag ourselves from our beds. Little wonder that there is so much crankiness on those dark mornings of daylight saving time.

The other side of the argument is that people who work end up coming home in the dark when during standard time. By the time they reach their homes they can’t putter in their gardens or just enjoy the sights and sounds of their neighborhoods. They miss the joy of daylight hours and sometimes don’t even see the sun at all in their windowless offices and work areas. Without even a hint of sun all day long they get the winter blues or find trouble sleeping because their internal clocks don’t know what time it is. At least the children have a bit of sun in the afternoon to get doses of vitamin D and their share of happy signals to their brains. Working adults sometimes go months without even a hint of natural light until it is spring and daylight saving time returns. 

It’s been proven that we humans need a certain amount of sunshine each and every day if we are to feel our best. People who live close to the Arctic circle sometimes spend entire days, weeks and months in the dark. It has a disastrous effect on their emotions, their sleep habits and their general well being. We crave sunshine, even if only for a few minutes every day. If we can’t get it naturally we have to seek out artificial light sources or risk becoming depressed or even physically ill. It’s something that our bodies and brains demand. 

I suppose that it’s not particularly good to keep changing back and forth between one time frame and another. Aside from the aggravation of adjusting all of the clocks two times a year, we all know that our bodies rebel each time we add or steal an hour from our day. I suspect that most of us would be far happier if we simply stopped this annoying routine once and for all. As it is, in typical fashion we started this for reasons unbeknownst to most of us. In truth it was not until World War I that the practice first came into being first in Germany and then in the United States.  It was instituted as a way of conserving fuel by minimizing the use of artificial lighting. It became uniform in all states of the USA in 1966. 

An analysis in 200,7 demonstrated that there is no significant preservation of fuel because of daylight saving time. Our modern lifestyles allow us to run appliances and keep our homes lit well into the night. People no longer retire for bed early simply because it is dark. The original rationale for the biannual switch is now essentially moot.

Medical studies have also shown that there is a negative health effect associated with changing the time twice a year. Regardless of which system we are switching to use, there is a correlation of increased visits to hospital emergency rooms for serious health issues like heart attack each time the switch takes place. Our bodies seem to do best when we establish a routine and stay with it.

I suppose that we are victims of the age old rule that once something starts nobody knows how to get rid of it whether it seems to have any purpose or not. We can’t seem to bring ourselves purge meaningless traditions even when most of us don’t like them anymore. It’s too bad that we don’t give the time changes a Marie Kondo kick in the pants. We should seriously consider getting rid of things we do not need. Pick one or pick the other, but don’t keep doing something that has virtually no benefit to any of us.