Yesterday, we started a new season of Daylight Savings Time (DST). I have survived another passing of the start of DST, but I remain just as vexed by the change today as the first time I experienced it many years ago. I have no question this is one of the worst ideas ever developed. The only thing worse is that someone else actually put the idea into practice. All I can ask is, “What were they thinking?”
Entomologist George V. Hudson of New Zealand was the first person in modern times to propose the idea of advancing clocks during the summer months in 1895. The plan was first used by Germany, Austria, and Hungary in 1916. Sometimes, Benjamin Franklin gets credit for creating the idea of DST, but in truth, all he said was, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He said nothing about messing around with the national clocks.
Losing one hour of sleep does not seem so drastic, but it is, actually. We are all creatures of habit, one of which is falling asleep, resting, and getting up about the same time of day. This pattern set by the rising sun, in turn, sets our circadian rhythm.
Our bodies become accustomed to a particular amount of time actively engaged in living life, as well as a sleeping routine. If altered, there are consequences to pay.
One of the consequences may include operating at reduced capacity while driving or operating heavy machinery. A 1975 study by the US Department of Transportation determined a 7/10 of one percent reduction in the number of fatalities during DST. That was the good news, but the bad news is the increase of accidents on the day after the time change.
A report titled, “Fatal Accidents Following Changes in Daylight Savings Time: The American Experience,” by Allen Varughese, RP, found, “There was a significant increase in accidents for the Monday immediately following the spring shift to DST.” There are also studies from other nations that both support and refute that claim. I think those reports were probably written on the Monday morning after the time change, which would explain why the researchers reached conflicting conclusions.
Uhmmm, just how many drivers out there are dozing off behind the wheels of their cars while trying to adjust their bodies to the new time change? What about heavy equipment operators? Train engineers? Airline pilots?
Regarding our bodies, there are other interesting things about the change to DST. The Los Angeles Times reports there is a five to ten percent increase in heart attacks on the Monday right after change in time. Additionally, the change of one hour has an effect on the quality and quantity of our sleep. A 2009 study published in Sleep Medicine, found students suffered from sleep deprivation for three weeks following the change to DST. The corollary to the sleepy students is their poor academic performance during that period.
So the question becomes one of WHY do we do this to ourselves? Every spring and every fall, we mess up our national circadian rhythm… For what?
I have to agree with the Miami Herald writer Dave Barry on this one. He says the reason behind the change is just to irritate Dave Barry.
I would have written and published this blog yesterday, but I was too tired, too sleepy, and too irritated at the time.
©2014 J. Clark
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