Casaubon's Book

End Daylight Savings Time?

Former Scienceblogger Boris Zivkovic, now at Scientific American, has an excellent post arguing that we should eliminate daylight savings time.  Given that DST was invented to save energy, it may seem strange that I agree with him, but I do – mostly because there’s no evidence that it does, and the physiological effects don’t merit the change:

Whether or not DST saves energy is the least of the reasons why it’s a bad idea. Much more important are the health effects of sudden, hour-long shifts on our bodies and minds. Chronobiologists who study circadian rhythms know that for several days after the spring-forward clock resetting – and especially that first Monday – traffic accidents increase, workplace injuries go up and, perhaps most telling, incidences ofheart attacks rise sharply. Cases of depression also go up. As the faint light of dawn starts preparing our bodies for waking up (mainly through the rise of cortisol secretion), our various organs, including the heart, also start preparing for increased function. If the alarm clock suddenly rings an hour earlier than usual, a weak heart can suffer an infarct.

The reason for negative health effects of DST is that, in essence, the entire world isjet-lagged for a few days. Unlike some animals, like honeybees and reindeer, humans have a very robust circadian clock system that resists abrupt shifts.

Every cell in our bodies contains a biological clock which coordinates the events in those cells—for example, when gene transcription turns on and off, or when specific proteins are made. When we are exposed to a light-dark cycle that is different from what we experienced the previous days, some types of cells synchronize to the new environmental cycle faster than the others. Cells in our eyes, for example, may adjust in about a day, while cells in our brains take a couple of days. Cells in the digestive system and liver may take weeks. So, for weeks after the DST clock change, our bodies are like a clock shop in which each timepiece cuckoos at a different time of day—a cacophony of confusing signals.

Because Eli is autistic, time changes are something he just doesn’t grasp or register.  It often takes us weeks or months to get him adjusted to an hour-long time difference (one of quite a few reasons why international travel with an autistic son doesn’t sound like a blast to me).  I see just how hard the time shift is on his body and brain, and I know that mine is just slightly better equipped to compensate.

Moreover, as we all know, daylight savings doesn’t make any more daylight – it simply shifts us more towards a night-focused society, rather than a morning-focused one.  The main reason I don’t like daylight savings is that I think it functionally encourages out tendency to stay up late and separate our sleep cycles from natural light.  What the coming of spring should do is motivate us to get up earlier, not stay up later.

So yeah, let’s dump DST.

 

Comments

  1. #1 DuaneBidoux
    Colorado
    March 7, 2013

    I have a strong opinion on this that is fairly selfish: it would get light in the summer where I live at 3:30am. I can barely tolerate when I open my eyes and see it light at 4:30. I can’t imagine 3:30. Leave it the same!

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    March 7, 2013

    I also find DST advantageous, in that it allows me to come home from work and spend an hour or so doing yard work before sunset. But that is not an argument for switching to and from standard time; instead it is an argument for staying on DST year round. The price is that December sunrises would come at 8:15 rather than 7:15 at my location (I am several degrees east of the nominal longitude for this time zone, so many people would have it even worse). But I would consider paying that price to have year round DST.

    In western China and western Alaska, clock time is 2-3 hours off of solar time even without DST. (All of China uses Beijing time, and most of Alaska uses the appropriate time zone for a longitude halfway between Juneau and Anchorage.) So, consistent with what Bora argues, the problem is with the switch, not which side of the switch one is on.

  3. #3 Hot Flash Homestead
    Coastal CA
    March 7, 2013

    I agree with you, Sharon, it’s high time for it go away. Whether we keep DST as the new year-round time, or ST, it makes no difference to me….we just need to stop changing it around. BTW, my husband is a professional farmer and says DST makes no difference whatsoever in their operations. They farm whenever it’s daylight, and the clock time makes no difference whatsoever in the amount of daylight the sun gives! So I’m not sure who is benefitting from the twice-yearly change.

  4. #4 Wow
    March 7, 2013

    Eric. qhat would be the point of keeping daylight savings year round? Just change the hours on the clock. Instead of 9-5 (middle of day 1pm!), do 8-4 (middle of day 12 noon).

  5. #5 Wow
    March 7, 2013

    “I can barely tolerate when I open my eyes and see it light at 4:30. I can’t imagine 3:30″

    Blackout curtains.

    Also reduces your power bills for heating/cooling.

  6. #6 c.
    March 7, 2013

    A longer-term Chinese visitor to my home here in the US was told this last fall that the clock times would change over the weekend. We spent the next hour trying to explain the why.

    His answer: Well in China we just move the schedule. Last week you came into work at 9am and this week it will be 8am when you start work. All done.

    I laughed. He asked why we didn’t do that. I couldn’t explain. I gave up with something along the lines of “Well, in the US here, we sometimes do things that don’t make sense.”

    And off we go on that change…

  7. #7 Debi Baker
    Santa Cruz
    March 7, 2013

    There is a very good reason NOT to have day light savings time year round: children and the school day. It is realy selfish to want that ” light outside longer after work” when it means that children are going to school in the dark, and it is dangerous for them ! I was a school child when we had the mid ’70′s energy problems and we stayed on daylight savings time thru the winter, and it was terrible to walk to school in the dark. We have been having “extended” daylight savings time the past few years, with the spring back happening early, and again we have children walking to bus stops or school in the dark or barely dawn time. Last year not far from here, within a week of the early daylight savings time spring forward, a young high school girl was taken, abused and killed. She was walking to the school bus stop when it was not light and that fact made it critically dangerous.

  8. #8 Eric Lund
    March 7, 2013

    Changing schedules by fiat isn’t any better than changing clocks. You have the same net effect of having to get to work an hour earlier, and you have to remember that your shift time starts earlier. Those of us who have computers and/or cell phones can use them to set to the new time zone (this is how I actually handle resetting my watch when traveling across time zone boundaries, as well as going on or off DST), and we don’t have to worry about starting work at 8 AM this week instead of 9 AM.

    Our present society assumes that office workers are at the office from 9 AM to 5 PM (possibly with a lunch break). Until that changes, I am not entirely free to adjust my schedule an hour earlier.

    My ideal solution would be to set everybody’s clock time to UTC (which eliminates the issue of getting time differences wrong when your colleagues are thousands of kilometers away) and have work schedules be appropriate for the longitude.

  9. #9 Wow
    March 7, 2013

    It’s no worse.

    And you don’t have to remember when to put the clocks back or forward ***if you even keep a shifting work day***. And you don’t have to remember “Is it fall back or fall forward?”.

    And the work day ISN’T set to a “9 to 5″.

    a) With DST, it’s 8-4, but your clock lies to you
    b) Most especially in the USA, it’s more like a 8-7:30pm day, otherwise you’re “not a team player” and first for the chop.

    And though you’re right to an extent with “keep on UTC”, this really doesn’t help much. Noon becomes a variable time. At the moment, it works fine if you specify ***when necessary*** at time in UTC.

    Really, ditch the idea of 9-5 which is already done anyway, just everyone keeps kidding on, allow flexitime with core hours for non-shift workers, which will ease congestion immensely, and if you need to work with people 1 time zone or more away, use UTC. Each can make their adjustment, which most calendars will do if the invite time says it’s UTC.

  10. #10 Wow
    March 7, 2013

    Debi, another reason to want to have lighter mornings in the winter is that if there IS ice around, it will melt for much of the year soon after the sun rises, which makes the roads safer.

    If it’s that deep a winter this won’t happen, then at least everyone is nicely awake and there’s plenty of light to see by for most locations, and others have no chance either way. And in the case of such high lattitudes, there’s probably a lot to say about having no winter schooling.

  11. #11 John Wheeler
    Slippery Rock, PA
    March 8, 2013

    Daylight Savings Time isn’t the disease, it’s the symptom. The problem is a culture obsessed with clocks and artificial time constructs instead of natural rhythms.

  12. #12 Judy
    March 8, 2013

    Reminds me of a poem I loved as a child. While my mother dutifully changed the clocks, she insisted on living on sun time regardless.
    I’d love to see DST canned and get back to those natural rhythms, and so would my autistic kids and feral cats.

    In winter I get up at night
    And dress by yellow candlelight
    In summer quite the other way
    I have to go to bed by day
    I have to go to bed and see
    The birds still playing in the trees
    And hear the grown up peoples’ feet
    still going past me in the street
    And does it not seem cruel to you
    When all the world is bright and blue
    And I would like so much to play
    To have to go to bed by day?

  13. #13 Cassandra
    March 8, 2013

    Is this where I get to feel all smug about living somewhere that doesn’t change clocks? The only problem we have us that every one around us does. So half the year if we are headed to the city east if us we are the same time, then they spring ahead. It’s a bit of a hassle to remember when your doctor’s appointment is.

    If you look up daylight savings time on Wikipedia and see the vast areas that don’t follow it you start to wonder why the rest bother. It really is time to end this nearly 100 year experiment.

  14. #14 Claire
    suburban St. Louis, MO
    March 9, 2013

    My husband thinks that DST was developed mostly for the people who play golf after work. With an extra hour of daylight, it’s possible to get in a full round of golf after a full day of work. Who knows … but count us in as two more people who want to end DST. I find the shift more difficult as I age and spend more time outside gardening though it did not bother me when I was a young researcher spending almost all my time indoors. My husband has never liked it.

  15. #15 Former Foster Mama
    March 11, 2013

    Sharon, the link to the article is broken. I would love to read the post you’re quoting from. Can you fix the link? Or can someone point me in the right direction?

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