Daylight saving time for most of the United States begins on the second Sunday in March then returns to standard time on the first Sunday in November at 2 a.m. (Nov. 5 this year) in individual time zones throughout the country. For most of us, it’s a painful transition as our body clocks adjust to the one-hour change of time and we “fall back” in time.
It doesn’t sound like much. One teeny-tiny hour, but it can throw our circadian rhythms completely out of order if we don’t take steps to mitigate its impact on us. Here’s all you need to know about Daylight Saving Time and how you can make the transition a little less jarring for yourself and your family.
History of Daylight Saving Time
While the first countries to establish Daylight Saving Time as seasonal changes were Germany and Austria (in 1916), residents of Port Arthur, Ontario, in Canada, instituted the world’s first DST period a full eight years earlier – in 1908. When Germany and Austria adopted the practice in 1916, it quickly spread to the rest of the world with the UK and France following quickly behind.
Today, DST is being used in more than 70 countries around the world, affecting more than one billion people.
Why was Daylight Saving Time Established?
The Germans, deeply embroiled in World War I, at the time, believed that the hour difference would help them conserve fuel by reducing reliance on artificial lighting. The benefits of DST may have been more pronounced as the industrial age was in full swing. However, many argue today that the perceived benefits, such as energy conservation, making better use of daylight, and keeping up with the seasonal shifts of the sun’s rising and setting, aren’t as important as they once were.
Today, more people use electricity at all hours of the day and night. Many businesses operate 24-hours a day, and people rely on electricity for far more than lighting their homes. More importantly, nations around the world have adopted cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity so it doesn’t have the same impact on the planet it had in the past. All of these factors cause many to question whether DST may now be obsolete.
How Can You Counter the Effects of Daylight Saving Time?
Before DST was a fairly worldwide event, British builder William Willett recommended setting clocks ahead for 20 minutes on four Sundays in April and setting them back by 20 minutes for four Sundays in September. While this created eight total switches within a year, it is easier for the body to adjust to those smaller switches over a course of weeks than one larger switch in one night.
You don’t have to wait for a nationwide ruling to do that. You can go for smaller increments in the weeks leading up to DST and save yourself the agony of a much harsher adjustment on November 5th.
- Consider going to bed slightly later each night the week before time changes and doing the opposite before time changes in spring.
- Don’t simply stay up later on Saturday, November 4th, thinking you’re getting an extra hour of sleep. Your body’s natural circadian rhythms may wake you early Sunday morning.
- Get plenty of exercise early in the day as your body adjusts to the new time.
- Get as much late sun exposure as possible prior to setting the clocks back. Similarly, get as much morning sun as possible in the days following turning the clocks back.
- Consider taking a short nap (but not too close to your bedtime) for a few days following the transition if you feel daytime drowsiness.
The transition from Daylight Saving Time to standard time doesn’t have to be a painful one. While the debate about its validity today may remain, the fact is that we must continue to deal with its impact on our lives twice a year for the time being. Consider making the changes mentioned above to take the pain out of your transition to and from DST.