It’s time we leave the clocks alone
Another catchy phrase to make one think that changing the time is not such a big deal — “spring forward” they say. Well, springing forward maybe easy for some, but not if you own a dog.
Dogs don’t know the first thing about losing an hour of sleep as we are forced to “spring forward.” Such is the case of my dog Sam. Regardless of what time the clock shows, he goes by his own internal time keeping system. So, why do we go through this ridiculous ritual every spring and fall? The very idea of saving energy does not work for me – this springing forward business only requires me to spend the first hour of my day in a state of groggy discontent, and a need to return to bed for an afternoon nap – which usually conflicts with Sam’s need for a walk.
It is believed that Benjamin Franklin is the culprit behind this whole idea since his determining that if people awoke earlier they could economize their usage of artificial light, such as candles and lamp oil. But, as fate would have it, the idea caught on; other countries took him up on it before we did, however.
It wasn’t until 1918 that President Woodrow Wilson signed what was called “Fast Time” into law to “support the war effort during World War I.” Interestingly enough, some cities, and even states don’t recognize this time change.
There may be some other factors that should have been considered when enacting this law. How about the health risks? Recent reports have indicated that the negative effects that occur to the human body in the first few days following “springing forward” can be deadly.
According to various recent media reports, interfering with the body’s circadian rhythm is definitely not smart in the short term, and who knows for sure what lingering effects there may be in the longer term. A recent report from CNN showed that the overall stroke rate was 8 percent higher in the first two days following daylight savings time. The 2016 report that was quoted went on to show a greater risk of heart attacks and personal injury, a 25 percent increase in stroke for cancer victims, and a 20 percent greater risk for strokes in persons over the age of 65.
This time change doesn’t just affect people. Animals are also affected by the change we call daylight savings time. When we move the schedules of our pets and farm animals, even by an hour, we cause confusion. Just like humans, animals have their own circadian rhythm. Unlike humans, however, when these rhythms are artificially adjusted they don’t understand why.
According to a research team at CSIRO Livestock Industries in Australia, when animals are confused problems can occur. For example, CSIRO reported that cows who are forced to wait an extra hour or be milked an hour earlier may become disoriented, bellow and their “proper” time for milking may be fraught with stress. Cats and dogs that are generally fed and/or exercised at certain times of the day may begin to act out, show signs of psychological and physiological stress, become grumpy or restless. (It is recommended by the researchers at that “during times of stress, pets may need a little paw-holding during the first few days following the time change.”)
We can’t ignore the economic effect this energy saving change has, either. Farmers have reported a decrease in the amount of milk dairy cows produce immediately following this change, due to the “farmer’s need to get the milk to market according to the new time.” And what about the business manager or public servant?
We have seen many studies that have been corroborated showing an increase in workplace injuries, auto accidents and even disruptions with our decision-making processes when removing just an hour of sleep, or disrupting the sleep cycle; Monday’s are tough enough without having to overcome the desire to just lie down and take a nap. (Fortunately, today is Wednesday, but I am still feeling the effects of that lost hour of sleep.)
It is these types of concerns that have prompted doctors at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital to suggest that the practice of observing daylight saving time be eliminated. The physicians argued that “based on the results of multiple studies showing its negative effects on cognitive ability, health and the workplace, removing this occurrence from our calendar would prioritize sleep health.” These researchers went on to argue, “Even though there aren’t as many negative associations with the fall transition, when we gain an hour,” Barnes said, “our research has shown people don’t typically use the extra hour for sleep. Human beings aren’t built for 25-hour days,” he said. “It throws people off because we’re working against our natural process.”
So, even though Ole’ Ben came up with the idea back in 1784, and President Wilson signed it into law in 1918 people have fought against it. It has been repealed and reinstated, extended and modified over the years and, yes, there are states such as Hawaii and Arizona that don’t observe it; but somehow it manages to hang on. Maybe so more studies can be done and more researchers can secure funding for their foundations. After all, research means money.
I have reached the conclusion that daylight savings time probably won’t go away, but adhering to some of the recommendations by the National Sleep Foundation won’t work for me either. Their two favorites recommendations to combat the associated “time change” fatigue are:
¯ Sleep later on Sunday morning – Sam refuses to comply!
¯ Take a nap – not during Sam’s afternoon walk time.
Most laughable, however, comes from Dr. Barnes, researcher and notable member for the foundation who says, “As a society, we tend to treat sleep like a luxury or a necessary evil rather than a health issue.” As for me, I don’t see sleep as a necessary evil, but it is definitely a luxury and one that I intend to enjoy.
Have a great day – take a nap!
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org