Okay, so let me get this off my chest. Daylight Saving Time is a pain in my – uh – butt cheeks. Perhaps I understood it when times were different. I thought I knew the origin of DST, but my research for this blog has me feeling seriously dumb. I really need to study history more.
As a kid, and to this day, I believed that DST was instituted primarily for safety reasons – to add daylight for farmers and provide safety for children heading back to school. Back then, farmers did not have multimillion dollar pieces of fancy farm equipment. There were no headlights on combines, plows, planters, or sprayers. Farmers put themselves and their crops in jeopardy by doing their jobs in the dark of night. Likewise, it was not safe for children to walk to school or wait at the bus stop in the dark. This actually made perfect sense to me. The real reasons, however, are strikingly more far-reaching.
The original reason for DST was to make better use of daylight and save energy. As far back as 1784, it is said that Benjamin Franklin posed the concept during his time as an American Envoy to France. In a satirical letter he suggested Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning. He proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.
While his effort was meant only to ridicule French arrogance, it was actually not until 1918 that the Standard Time Act established time zones and daylight saving. Originating in Germany during the war to conserve fuel and power by extending daylight hours, the U.S. followed suit, but it was short-lived. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act officially established DST as a national standard but gave states the option to exempt themselves.
Ok, so there may be value in the save energy premise, but the bottom line is that it simply confuses our body clocks. It is a documented fact that the number of heart attacks jumps about 25% the Monday after the spring change. Of course, to be fair, a separate study showed a 21% heart attack drop on the Tuesday after the fall change.
Personally, I am a testament to the fact that natural light can boost a person’s productivity and vitality in the workplace. I am ridiculously lethargic during the gloom and doom gray days of winter. Scientific studies have also linked natural light with a boost in happiness and long-term life satisfaction. Winter days are short no matter what time it is due to the tilt of the earth’s axis. So why complicate the issue with a time change? Why not let our bodies self-adjust to the loss of natural light?
I try to imagine what it would be like to live in Iceland. From mid-May to mid-August, the sun only sets for around three hours per day, and it is, for all practical purposes, light for the entire 24-hour period. In midwinter, there are only five hours of effective daylight. Talk about a body clock crisis. I would be in perpetual jet lag.
It is bizarre how a one-hour clock change can upset my mental health apple cart so dramatically. I guess my creature of habit tendencies take exception to radical ideology. Ok, so it is only an hour. You all should already know I love making mountains out of mole hills. It is what makes me tick. And, thanks to DST, those ticks gain momentum in the fall. Ooh, maybe it will incite my dark side. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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