It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since we did the Spring-Forward into Daylight Savings Time thing, and I’m still not doing well. Granted, I’m doing better than I was the Sunday after I lost that hour, insofar as I don’t feel like I want to jump out of my skin, and burrow my head under pillows for a week. Two-and-a-half weeks out I don’t have insomnia and I don’t constantly feel nauseated, but that’s kind of like saying I feel better than when I had the flu. A time change shouldn’t make me ill. But it does. It destabilizes me physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I just want it to stop.
The world’s concept of time does not get along with my body’s rhythm to begin with. I am a night person. I like to tell people that I don’t want to see the sun rise unless it’s just before I go to bed. My ideal schedule has me going to bed no earlier than midnight, and getting up no earlier than 8am. Ideally, I would go to bed at 2am and wake up at 10am. If I really wanted to be self-indulgent I would go to bed at 4am and wake up at noon. This would have worked fine for the career I initially chose and was almost kind-of good at: teaching college. Though all professors, when they start, have to take the dreaded 8:30 am sections of their subject, by a few years in I was able to have my earliest start times at 10am. Sometimes I taught night sections that ended at 9pm. Those were the times when I thrived. I could stay up writing until midnight or 2 am—because no one really calls or emails after 11pm—with absolutely no distractions, and still get seven to nine hours of sleep. I was living the dream.
Then, I had kids. I don’t regret a single moment of my parenting life, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit those first few years were hard. It starts hard because babies don’t always get the concept of eight hours of sleep (their stomachs are small, and they need constant feeding, I get that) and even when they do a good night is in bed by 7pm and up at 5am. The 7pm thing was nice; I got to watch a tv show or two before I went to bed. The 5am thing—well, let’s just say I lived for nap time. My daughter would nap from 9:30am-11am and so would I. It was a lifesaver.
Then, school started, and arrival time was regularly 7:30am, meaning up at 6:30 to pack lunches and snacks and then driving them (because we opted to send them to our parish Catholic school, and that meant no school buses). Again, all sacrifices I was willing and happy to make, but ones that definitely did not sit well with my preferred sleep schedule. My motto became, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” and it remains so to this day because we’re still in Catholic school, our start time is still around 7:30 am, and I’m still driving them in the morning (though now I have a carpool—thank God!)
All this to say that the world’s insistence that everyone’s day start no later than 9am, our consensual hallucination created by numbers on a clock that intends to regulate everyone’s day, is not one that works well for me. I conform to it, as I’m sure others conform to things that do not naturally work for them, because I fully understand that we have to agree on start times and end times for our day, and the majority of people out there seem to be morning people, and the rest of us just make it work.
But then, twice-a-year, the nation decides that it’s not enough to already be messing with the biological clocks of night people. We have to “spring forward,” then “fall back.” I’m told that at some point in our nation’s history this made some kind of sense, because of farming, or energy conservation, or children not going to school in the dark. Well, I look around after we fall back, and after we spring forward. I am still taking my children to school in the dark. I’m still seeing kids waiting at bus stops in pitch blackness because of staggered school schedules. The lights are on in buildings at all times, whether the sun is out or not. As far as farms . . .I don’t know. I’m a city girl. I would think cows don’t much care what time it is. Or pigs, or chickens, or plants. My farming friends can correct me on this one. My blog posts are here to start conversation, and I’m happy to learn. I acknowledge that there is an incredible amount of stuff that I don’t know, and I am so grateful to have an opportunity to correct my errors and alter my opinions.
But here is what I do know—whether we fall back or spring forward, everyone around me totally loses their minds. As well they should. People have biological rhythms that gradually adjust with natural seasonal light changes. If we would just stop messing with the clock, our bodies and minds would gradually attune to the fact that it gets lighter a few minutes later in the morning and darker in the afternoons in the fall, and that it gets lighter a few minutes earlier and stays light a few minutes later in the spring. Our circadian rhythms would incrementally adjust to going to sleep earlier in winter and later in summer.
The key word is gradual. Time change takes what should be small differences of minutes and fast forwards us or rewinds us a full hour all at once—moving us sixty times faster than we should. And you know what happens? Horrible things. Did you know that there is a 10% greater risk of heart attacks on the first three work days after the Daylight Savings time change? There is an 8% overall greater risk of a stroke with a 25% higher risk in cancer patients and a 20% higher risk in people over 65. There are also more car accidents. There are more workplace accidents, with higher severity on those Mondays than any others during the year. There are more miscarriages for in vitro fertilization patients. There is an 11% increase in reports of depression that do not automatically resolve until 10 weeks later. This is the amount of time, approximately, that it would take to naturally change the sunset/sunrise time without the time change.
Despite the multiple studies that show all of these increased risks, I have a lot of friends who adore the time change. “We get more light!” they say. No. We don’t. We get the exact same amount of light we would otherwise have gotten, we just get it at a different time of day. I get that the light at the end of the day is more convenient for people who like to do things after work and school. But you know who gets inconvenienced? Morning exercisers, who take their life in their hands to get in their outdoor run or walk before work. Parents with young children, as babies don’t know a clock from a door handle and become hot messes when they’re forced to wake up an hour earlier or later than their biological clock tells them to, which in turn makes parents into zombies who have to hear far more screaming in the morning and at night than they otherwise would have. Everyone whose start times stay the same regardless of whether it’s light or dark.
They key here is this: I’ve been inconvenienced by the world’s concept of productive working hours since I started school at age four. I had a few blissful years where my daily activities accommodated my night-owl tendencies, but by and large I have gone along with society’s need to start things at what my body naturally feels is ridiculous times of the morning. I don’t care whether we stay in standard time or daylight savings time. I just want the time changes to stop.
I hear that the Florida legislature has passed a motion to end the time change, and that it now has to be approved or disapproved by Congress. “But that will throw Florida off east coast time by an hour for part of the year!” people cry. Yeah. A part of Florida is thrown off east coast time already because the Tallahassee area is not in the Eastern Time Zone (a fact that becomes particularly important to remember around national election times when news agencies try to “call Florida” an hour before the polls have closed in part of the state). Let’s take it state wide! And then maybe the rest of the coast will see that we’re healthier, having fewer accidents, and are more mentally well-adjusted for days, if not weeks longer than the rest of them, and move to abolish these physically and emotionally damaging time changes once and for all. It probably won’t happen, because nothing our nation does makes much sense any more, but a tired and depressed girl can hope, right?
“Your Health and Daylight Savings Time.” Time and Date.com https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/daylight-saving-health.html
Strickland, Ashley. “Why Daylight Saving Time Can Be Bad for Your Health.” CNN.com March 8, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/11/health/daylight-saving-time-health-effects/index.html
Welch, Ashley. “Five Ways Daylight Savings Time Messes With Your Health, and What to Do About It.” CBS.com. March 18, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/daylight-saving-time-affects-your-health-wellness/