Why we have daylight saving time and how you can help your body adjust to it | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: June 22, 2024
Daylight savings time 2021

If you live in the US, tomorrow marks the official end of daylight saving time, also known as “fall back.” Despite widespread pushback against the concept of daylight savings, it is still practiced in 48 states (Hawaii and Arizona opt out). Today, we’re sharing the history behind daylight savings and some facts you may not know about it. Plus, how to best prepare your body for the time transition.

Why do we have daylight saving time?

The concept of daylight saving was first introduced in the 1700s by Benjamin Franklin who argued that moving the clocks forward in the spring would allow for people to take advantage of early summer sunrises and cut down on their energy use. This plan was effective at first, but with the introduction of air conditioners, television, and other modern appliances, the correlation between sunlight and energy use is no longer as strong.

As explained by Tufts University professor Michael Downing, in the modern era, the biggest lobbyist for continued daylight saving time is actually the Chamber of Commerce. They realized that if workers still had daylight when they left their jobs, they were far more likely to stop and shop on their way home. This is why Congress has extended daylight saving by a month every 15 years since 1966. At this rate, standard time makes up just four months of the year, meaning that daylight saving time is actually the new norm.

What’s the argument against daylight saving time?

Nineteen states have enacted legislation to switch to year-round daylight saving time in the past four years, meaning that if Congress were to approve the change, these states would do away with the concept. These arguments are based not only on the frustration and headache of adjusting to a new time, but also on the fact that research links daylight saving transitions to higher rates of traffic accidents, workplace injuries, and heart attacks. Essentially, disrupting a person’s circadian rhythms can unconsciously throw off their focus. One paper published in Current Biology found that eliminating daylight savings could prevent more than 600 fatal accidents in a 22-year period.

What is the argument for daylight saving time?

In addition to buying more stuff and spending more time on the golf course—one golf industry representative testified to Congress that an extra hour of sunlight was worth “$200 million in additional sales of golf clubs and greens fees”—daylight savings time is also associated with lower rates of crime. A Stanford study found that the increase in ambient light during daylight savings does decrease socially-damaging crimes as people are less likely to be out after dark. What’s more, they found that the policy is associated with a “total estimate social cost avoidance of over $550 million per year.”

How can you help your body adjust?

Whether you are for or against daylight savings, most of us are stuck with it for the time being. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help your body prepare and adjust for the change.

Gradually change your sleep time

This is a great strategy, especially if you have young children, and it is slightly more feasible in the world of remote work. In the days leading up to the time shift, go to sleep 10-15 minutes later and wake up 10-15 minutes later so that by the time Sunday rolls around, your body is already adjusted. This doesn’t work for everyone’s schedules, but any adjustment you can make will help. Likewise, do the reverse in the spring to avoid having to drag yourself out of bed when daylight saving time begins again.

Shift your meal times

Food is a big factor in circadian rhythms, so as we set our clocks back, start adjusting by eating meals 10-15 minutes later than usual each day in those leading up to Sunday.

Focus on your morning and nighttime ritual

Bedtime routines aren’t just for kids. Establishing a solid bedtime routine will help signal to your body that it is time for sleep. This means putting away screens and engaging in relaxing activities like reading, taking a hot bath, or practicing some yoga. In the morning, proceed with your day as usual to help your body adjust.

Use the change to your advantage

The end of daylight saving isn’t as painful as the start of it, and it’s a great time to get your sleep schedule back on track. Relish that extra hour of slumber and use it as an opportunity to make a habit of going to sleep earlier and waking earlier. More morning daylight also means you can enjoy morning walks and use the sun to help you wake up. For more tips, check out this article on becoming a morning person.

Lean into your self-care

Darkness in the early afternoon following the end of daylight saving time can wreak havoc on our mental health, especially for those who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Prioritize your self-care next week and make time to eat well, exercise daily, and perhaps practice meditation or journaling. Getting a sunlight lamp, which replicates the rays of the sun, can also be helpful for making your home feel more comforting during these darker days.

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