Daylight saving time seems like such a great idea this first week of November. Waking up an hour earlier that dreary March 11 is in the past, and now we’re just thankful for the extra hour of sleep we got last Sunday. But relishing in that precious 60-minute snooze surplus comes at a cost.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is often wrongfully accredited with many achievements, including inventing daylight saving. This mistaken recognition is due to his derisive letter to the Parisians, mockingly suggesting waking up earlier to save candles and lamp oil. However, the time change was actually implemented during World War I to maximize on natural lighting and thus save electricity. While it may have been worthwhile then, daylight saving time is actually quite problematic nowadays.
Our bodies function best under a routine, specifically when it comes to sleeping and eating. When we interfere with our inner clocks by turning our literal clocks backwards an hour, we disrupt vital metabolic processes. A shift in one’s set eating and sleeping schedule can therefore lead to effects such as weight gain, and yet we all disturb our body’s rhythms twice a year. Plus, while the hour we lost from “springing forward” feels so distant when we “fall back,” setting our clocks ahead in the spring leads to higher rates of car accidents and heart attacks because of the lost hour of sleep. Is that really worth the extra hour from this weekend?
That being said, many of us experience schedule changes when shifting between semesters and breaks that likely also affect our internal clocks, so why the stigma around daylight saving? When students are getting adjusted to their new schedules the first week back, it can definitely be challenging, but that is why many professors use at least the first day of class to just go over the syllabus. Besides, college students are a subset of the population. For daylight saving, every individual in about 40 percent of the world’s countries nationally perturb their daily routines biannually. This leads to more widespread issues, especially on the start of daylight saving in March, when many people are operating on a one-hour sleep deficit.
Additionally, because daylight saving time results in more morning daylight hours, it gets dark significantly earlier in the day. Many people are asleep or preparing for the day indoors during this extra morning sunshine hour, and thus don’t feel the benefits. When those same people leave their school or jobs in the evening, they are greeted by darkness. This can prove especially detrimental to people with persistent or seasonal depression. In Denmark, a country that practices daylight saving time, the yearly time change is accompanied by an 11 percent rise in “severe depression diagnoses”, which drops again in the following ten weeks.
There are many things that you can do to accommodate for the change in daytime hours this winter. Start by turning the lights on around your room every morning to avoid the dark. Use this forced change in your routine to go to bed slightly earlier, so you can wake up earlier and maximize on the extra sunlight. Using that time to walk, run or work out outside is a two-fold improvement, since any form of exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle and can be helpful for treating depression. To avoid the weight gain associated with the changing clocks, try sticking to a meal schedule, eating your biggest meal at lunch and having a small, early dinner. Try your best to make those meals nutritious. To manage your feelings, stay social and try not to take on more stress than you can handle.
With the beginning of winter comes what seems like the gift of an hour, but do not let that Trojan horse of sleep let you fall into daylight saving time’s trap. Take care of yourself in the winter by adjusting your sleep, exposing yourself to all of the light you can get and staying healthy. Take advantage of the imposed change to your internal clock to set good habits for this upcoming winter.
Veronica Eskander is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.