Health & Wellness

Daylight Savings Time History and Tips for Adjusting to a Time Change

Unless you happen to live in one of the areas of the world that do not adhere to Daylight Savings Time, the rest of the world begrudgingly loses an hour of sleep each spring, only to regain it back in the fall.  The United States, and 70 other countries switch their clocks forward an hour when the second Sunday in March rolls around. Only to switch them back again on the first Sunday in November. The daylight savings time change occurs every year, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, Japan, India, and China.

While most, almost mindlessly, change their clocks every spring and fall because the calendar tells them to, how many truly know the reason why we go through this process every single year.

What is Daylight Savings Time?

The history of daylight savings time actually dates as far back as Benjamin Franklin in 1784. While it was not called daylight savings at the time, he is the first one to come up with the idea to reset the clocks during the summer months as a means to conserve energy.

During World War I, Germany was the first to institute daylight savings time in May of 1916. But a surprising fact about daylight savings time is that Canada actually instituted the process back in July 1908, eight years before Germany.  The rest of Europe followed not long after, and the United States came on board in 1918.

At the end of WWI, President Woodrow Wilson wanted to keep daylight savings time, but many citizens, mostly the rural farmers at the time, objected to it because it meant they would lose an hour of morning light. So daylight savings was actually abolished until the start of World War II when Franklin Roosevelt reinstituted the process of pushing clocks forward an hour, which he called War Time.

When the war ended, daylight savings time became a free for all. Without a standard policy in place, states and towns were allowed to choose whether or not they wanted to participate. This led to chaos, making it impossible to know the correct time from one town or state to the next.

Congress put an end to the chaos in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act. This federal law did not necessarily require states to observe daylight savings time, but instead required those that did, to follow a uniform protocol. Daylight savings time would start on the first Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday in October. It wasn’t until 2007 when these dates changed to the second Sunday in March and first Sunday in November that we abide by today.

Why Was it Invented?

As winter turns to spring, the tilt of the Earth on its axis faces towards the sun, allowing for the extra sunlight in the evening. The real reason for daylight savings has always been to save energy. When it stays light out longer, eliminating the need for electric lights. While there was a noticeable cost saving when we utilized incandescent bulbs, the switch to energy efficient lighting, think LED and CFL bulbs, nearly make the once cost savings experienced by the time change almost moot. Some areas may even need to run air conditioning units for longer to stay cool, as a result of hotter summer evenings during daylight savings time.

The lack of cost saving is why daylight savings time is becoming a hotly debated topic. Many states are considering making the switch to daylight savings time a permanent thing. Evidence shows the benefits of the extra evening light, far outweighs those experienced when that hour returns in the fall.

How to Adjust to a Loss of Sleep:

Like it or not, every spring we lose an hour of sleep when the time change occurs in March. Like me, you are probably no stranger to the negative effects that sleep deprivation can have on your body.

Immediately following the change, there’s an approximately 24% increase in heart attacks, car crashes, strokes and even suicides. Losing an hour alters the sleep and wake cycle. This results in a restless nights sleep because you’re forcing yourself to go to bed sooner than normal. When you don’t sleep well at night, it turns into grogginess, irritability and mood disruptions. Not to mention having a negative effect on your memory. But there are things you can do to help make the transition a bit easier.

1. Try and give your body some time to adjust to the time change.

Prior to the time change, go to bed earlier, and rise earlier than you normally would. This helps the body ease into the time change gradually, instead of doing it all at once.

2. Make sure to expose yourself to sunlight as soon as you rise in the morning.

Enjoy your morning coffee, or breakfast near a sunlight window, or take an early morning walk, if weather permits. Sunlight can help to reset your internal clock, making the time change a bit easier to handle.

3. Avoid indulging in caffeine later in the day.

Caffeine is a good afternoon “pick me up”, but the boost it provides is only good for the short term. Too much caffeine, especially in the evening can prevent you from falling asleep at night. This can then turn into an unhealthy dependence on caffeine in order to get through the day. Now, this is not to say that you can’t have caffeine at all, just avoid indulging in it after lunchtime.

4. Consider adding some meditation time to your evening routine.

Take 30 minutes to sit still and bring gentile awareness to your breathing before you turn in for the evening. This gives the body a chance to decompress, making it easier to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow. It’s also important to stop using electronic devices during this time. Our bodies utilize melatonin to naturally regulate sleep and wake cycles. The blue light emitted from electronic devices prevents the production this hormone, making it difficult to fall asleep.

It is never too late to begin instituting these tips in your daily life. Many of these tips are helpful all year long, not just for the daylight savings time change. With time, you may welcome the daylight savings time change. No longer seeing it as the unhealthy loss of sleep that it’s known as by so many.

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