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Re-Thinking the Time Change

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A column By Sandy Rigas

Just under a year ago, the U.S. Senate approved a bill called the “Sunshine Protection Act” which would eliminate the annual March and November time changes. Initially, I was excited, as even from childhood I’ve never been a fan of time “springing ahead and falling back.,” I did temper my excitement with the knowledge that for this bill to become law, it had to next be approved by the House of Representatives, and then signed into law by the president. As this process can be somewhat cumbersome, I knew it would not likely be implemented for months, even years. But I had the mistaken impression that the time that would become permanent was Standard time.

The bill’s name is a misnomer, as is the phrase “Daylight Savings Time” itself. Daylight Savings Time does not “save” sunshine, nor does it add more sunshine hours to the 24-hour clock. It just shifts an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. If during the past month you have appreciated waking up to daylight, or having daylight by the time you leave for work or school, get ready for a rude awakening Monday morning. It will be dark until nearly 7:45 a.m. which is about an hour later than it was this past Friday.

This bill’s name is misleading and contains some false rationale, including that it will reduce mood disorders. Research has shown the opposite, and that numerous health problems are negatively affected by the time shift, including sleep disorders.

As I child I used to wonder which way time should really be, what was time as nature intended.

Standard time is “real time.” A common myth is that Daylight Savings Time was created for farmers’ benefit. Most farmers I’ve known would rather have the hour of daylight in the morning when it is cooler, and the sun is not as high.

Benjamin Franklin toyed with the idea of shifting an hour of the clock, but it was not until during World War I when Germany started using the idea as a strategy to save industrial energy that Daylight Savings Time became a practice. The United States quickly followed suit and with the evolution of the “9-5” workday, the appeal of “an extra hour of daylight in the evening” became popular. One argument for continuing to use Daylight Savings Time as the 20th century advanced was that it would lower energy consumption. However, research over the past century has shown that energy consumption has increased, not decreased, during periods of Daylight Savings Time.

Despite its popularity, two of the 50 States do not use Daylight Savings Time and remain on Standard time all year: Arizona and Hawaii. What do they know that we don’t?

The circadian rhythm of humans and animals is based on natural time, which is Standard Time. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that natural light in the morning helps us to wake up and be cognitively ready to begin the day. Natural light in the evening interferes with our body’s natural inclination to wind down for the night and be ready to sleep. The University of Colorado at Boulder has done extensive research into the effects of Daylight Savings Time.

“If you look at the expert consensus from the scientific societies that focus on sleep, health, and circadian rhythm, all of them agree that it (DST) is a bad idea,” said Professor Ken Wright of CU Boulder, who has studied the impact of light on sleep and health for over 30 years. “Yes, we should be getting rid of the twice-yearly time changes. But we should be sticking with Standard time, not Daylight Savings Time. If we change to Daylight Savings Time permanently, over the course of a year we’ll be losing 60 days of light in the morning before 8 a.m. and 98 days of light in the morning before 7 a.m.”

The 48 states that practice twice-yearly time changes should join Arizona and Hawaii on Standard Time. We should stop wasting time arguing about why Daylight Savings Time is good, or bad. The “Sunshine Protection Act” should be abandoned and a bill introduced to the Senate to Make Standard Time Permanent. We should respect the natural order, stop manipulating time and use Standard Time all year.

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