Darkness, Darkness

I hate fall’s time change. By setting back the clock, the “fall back” mechanism performed Saturday night, I’ll spend the next five months struggling with my sleep. Instead of waking up most days around 3:30 and lying in bed for another hour or so, I’ll now wake up at the ungodly time of 2:30, and often right after the change, as early as 1:30 or 2:00. THIS SUCKS!!

Not only does it disrupt sleep patterns, it also means that for many, they leave home in the dark and return home in the dark. Can anyone say SAD, as in Seasonal Affective Disorder? This is another one of society’s long held conventions that makes absolutely no sense, yet this twice-a-year time change persists.

If you want to direct your ire somewhere, blame it on the railroads. The railroads were the drivers of setting time in the 19th century, coordinating distant clocks so that trains would run on precise timetables, which theoretically cut down on crashes. Trains also are responsible for time zones, too.

Then there’s that Ben Franklin guy, the “early to bed, early to rise” fellow, who gets credit for instituting an early American version of our spring/fall time switch. A century and a quarter later, an Englishman named William Willett, had his own British ideas about clock-turning, to and fro.

Willett’s plan for England was an idea for moving the clocks forward in the summer to take advantage of the daylight in the mornings and the lighter evenings. His proposal suggested moving the clocks 20 minutes forward each of four Sundays in April, and switching them back by the same amount on four Sundays in September. His plan caught the interest of members of Parliament. A bill was introduced in the House of Commons in February 1908. The first Daylight Saving Bill was drafted in 1909 and presented several times and examined by a select committee. However, the bill was opposed by many, especially farmers and the bill never made it into a law. Willett died in 1915 and never got the chance to see his idea come to fruition.

Both World Wars made changing our clocks one of duty, supporting the war effort. Later, Daylight Saving Time (DST) was thought to save energy; and extended during the 1970s. Some studies have shown a negligible savings effect. A 1976 report by the National Bureau of Standards disputed the 1975 U.S. Department of Transportation study, and found that DST-related energy savings were insignificant; the DOT study continues to influence decisions about Daylight Saving Time. Apparently transportation trumps standards.

When March comes, and we can “spring forward,” and run and bike in the early morning light, or late into our days, we’ll soon forget about this season of darkness.

The long, dark days of winter challenge anyone seeking their fitness fix outdoors. The colder days, lack of available light, and slick marketing prompt most people to turn to indoor options like gyms and other fitness rooms. I’m putting my foot down and saying “no!” this year; I’m not giving in (I say that now).

I’ll run, bike (as long as I can), and then, snowshoe and cross-country ski, in order to get my vitamin D, and ward off the winter blues. The only nod I’ll make is swimming, which I’ve been doing even during the lighter time of the year.

My solution would be to pick one, either standard time, or DST, and stick with it. It’s doubtful that will ever happen.

3 thoughts on “Darkness, Darkness

  1. The rate of increased suicides and heart attacks, not to mention a notoriously increased rate of activity in emergency rooms due to accidents in the weeks following the time changes, speak volumes about the dangers inherent in messing with our natural rhythms. We are mammals, we have natural cycles, and among them is to sleep longer and work less in the winter. Weightlifters have long known this, that it is much easier to build muscle in the summer than in the winter, and that recognition was the origin of periodicity in athletic training.

    You might want to check out Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T. S. Wiley and Bent Formby. While they tend to write in a breathless, “who knew” style to emphasize their points, it is an excellent book for bringing together what we know about the importance of sleep, the seasonal role of carbohydrates, and how our light exposures effect us down to our core molecules.

    Now back to bed.

    • LP,

      For the purposes of brevity, I didn’t touch on some of the health issues relative to the time change that your comment touches on. There is an element to the need to “hibernate,” also.

      The past several years, I’ve done my best to spend time in the natural light. Getting out and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing helps.

      Will check out your recommendation of Wiley and Formby’s book. Thanks.

  2. As an experiment, have you considered just leaving your clocks where they are and carrying on with your life as it was? You might be in a position to try it right now.

    In your life, the way you choose to order it, how often do you need to be “on time?” For those few times you do, add an hour mentally to your clock. Or keep a single clock set to DST, and only consult it when you have something you have to be “on time” for. Just a thought.

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