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“The early bird catches the worm.” Benjamin Franklin, the famously frugal Founding Father and proponent of productivity, would surely agree with that idiom. However, for many people, getting up was just a bit more difficult last week. Sunday, March 10 at 2 a.m. marked Daylight Saving Time across most of the United States. That meant we turned the clocks forward one hour and lost an hour of sleep. It is an annual shift that can be difficult to adjust to. In November, after a summer of longer days, Daylight Saving Time turns ‘off’ and we bookmark this “spring forward” with a “fall back” to Standard Time with the loss of an hour.
Have you ever wondered where the practice of springing and falling time originated? What rationale lies behind the turning of the clocks? Did you realize that Daylight Saving Time is not observed in every country, or even in every state? Take a few moments to learn why there is a Monday each March when many of us are a little sleep-deprived.
All about DST—
Throughout history, the position of the sun has been used to tell time. ‘Standard Time’ is the term for what time it is during the four months between November and March, when Daylight Saving Time is not being observed. However, it turns out that Standard Time is not, well, standard. Standard Time does not mean it is the same time worldwide. Daylight Saving Time is just one example of how we adjust Standard Time. Pause to learn more about Standard Time—how we figure it and when we change it. What American laws guide DST? When was DST first adopted and why?
Daylight Saving Time rearranges the day’s sunlight hours— the morning loses an hour of sunlight and the evening gains an hour of daylight. There are guidelines about when we change our clocks. Most of us are not awake to change our clocks at 2 a.m. when DST begins. Scroll down to discover why the changeover occurs at 2 a.m., the American exceptions to DST, and how fire departments use the annual event to promote fire safety.
Sunrise, time, and latitude all play a role in how much daylight a country experiences. It becomes daylight at different times depending upon the country’s latitude and whether they are on DST or Standard Time. Shift the white bar up and down to see the relationship between latitude and daylight. Visit an infographic that visualizes DST. Add time to the graphic using orange for Standard Time and purple for Daylight Saving Time on the graphic; add these colors to the key.
Revisit the Daylight Saving Time Web Exhibit and learn more about the original rationale behind DST, and the early days of DST. It may come as little surprise that Benjamin Franklin first proposed shifting daylight. Read what inspired the idea. William Willett was an active supporter of Franklin’s idea. Read the first page of Willett’s pamphlet, The Waste of Daylight.
Daylight Saving Time. It sounds so benign. Who could be opposed to saving? Yet, there are pros and cons. Brainstorm some, then read about DST pros and cons, opposition and obstacles. Explain which industries you expect have been most (un)supportive of DST.
The most recent example of disagreement about DST takes place in Russia where dairy farmers concerned about their cows led a moo-vement to permanently end DST. In 2011, the Russian parliament passed legislation ending DST. Listen to then-President Medvedev explain why he supported the end of DST. It was a long, dark Russian winter; without DST, the sun did not rise until after 9 a.m. After a year without DST, a new movement has begun in Russia—one to return to DST. This time the plea to turn back time is being led by doctors concerned about the affects of prolonged darkness, and financial traders concerned that their business day is behind that of other markets.
Whether to observe DST is a decision made by individual countries. Examine a world map of Daylight Saving Time to see where is it observed and the range of dates for switching between Standard Time and DST. Do you notice any patterns that would explain why DST is observed in some countries and not others? According to United States law, to follow DST or not to follow it is an issue for each state to decide. Most of Arizona, and Hawaii do not observe DST. Why do you think residents of those states have opted out?
As you might imagine, a shifting clock can impact all sorts of events: train travel, birth certificates, even alibis and legal proceedings. There are a variety of Daylight Saving Time incidents and anecdotes that prove Mark Twain was right, “Truth is stranger than fiction…”
So, what is a person to do in March and October when the time switches? How can you ease your adjustment and help soothe your biorhythms? The editor of Prevention Magazine visited The Drs. to discuss the affects of DST on health. Read the accompanying article for more suggestions.