Time Change Musings

Once again, we’ve set our clocks back an hour, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief to finally have my mornings back. I love the early hours on the patio with my steaming coffee cup, listening to nature’s awakening and watching the sun rise over the mountains. It’s been hard for me the last month or so, waking up in the dark and having to get busy with my day before having an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful quiet time for pause and reflection.

The powers that be have periodically lengthened the Daylight “Savings” Time (DST) season, which increasingly prolongs my sorrow over lost introspective moments. During DST, I struggle to function in the mornings during spring and fall, and I sometimes end up going to bed before dark in summer. This was particularly true during the days I lived near the Canadian border in northern Idaho but, even here in the south, I still feel those effects. Latitude definitely makes a difference. If the US adopts permanent DST, parts of Montana, North Dakota, and Michigan would not see sunrise until after 9:30 a.m. during the winter months.

Today I read an American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) article about the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make DST permanent across the country. The US Senate passed it in March, and the US House is currently evaluating the proposal. According to experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the US should instead adopt permanent standard time for the public’s overall health and safety.

The article notes that the US has tried permanent DST before, with disastrous results. Amid a nationwide energy crisis in 1973, President Nixon signed such a bill into law, aimed at reducing energy consumption. During the first winter, complaints about prolonged darkness in the morning were rampant. Parents expressed safety concerns because their children had to walk to school or wait for the bus in the dark. While the DST experiment was intended to last two years, it was so unpopular that Congress reverted the nation to standard time in the fall of 1974 after only 8 months. Why can’t Americans learn from history? Instead, we seem to constantly repeat our mistakes.

According to the article, misalignment caused by seasonal time changes has been linked to dangerous health and safety consequences, including an increased risk of stroke and hospital admissions. One study found a reduction in the rate of cardiovascular events during standard time in particular, suggesting that the chronic effects of DST may lead to a higher risk of adverse health problems when compared with standard time.

I’m with AASM, in favor of mornings, health, and productivity. I sure hope the US House of Representatives, for once, listens to science and common sense. I’m not holding my breath.

Photo by Barry Benson. This Seth Thomas clock has been in my family for generations. It keeps great time, but it doesn't like to "fall back" as much as I do!

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