Saturday, March 7, 2009

Daylight Saving Time Blues

One of the hazards of being sick for a week is that you miss things. Things like this:

March 7 (Bloomberg) -- It’s the day Americans lose an hour of sleep again, as the U.S. shifts to daylight-saving time tomorrow.

Most of the nation will set clocks forward by one hour at 2 a.m. local time, which becomes 3 a.m. local daylight time.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 lengthened the period for daylight time, moving the start to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November. Until 2007, daylight-saving time began the first Sunday of April and ended on the last Sunday of October.

Arrgh. Just what I need right now--another hour of lost sleep. And we were planning to go to our usual Mass in the morning (provided Thad feels up to it--he's still running a fever), but as that Mass is at 8:30 a.m. and we usually get there by 8 a.m. to run through the music which means leaving our house by 7:30 which means getting up by...well, okay, we only have to get up by six at the latest, but for a night person who's been staying up later than usual the thought is agonizing. It would, in all honesty, be almost easier to just stay up all night--the worst night of coughing I had with this bug I stayed up until 5 a.m. anyway, so what's a few more hours?

It's not really the one hour sleep difference that bugs me about Daylight Saving Time. As I wrote about it two years ago:

All of this is at least part of why I'm none too thrilled about the early arrival of Daylight Saving Time this year. I never much like "Spring Forward!" time anyway, as it takes me quite a while to break the habit of looking in utter shock at the clock that's telling me that it is nearly 3 a.m., and readjusting my schedule so that I'm in bed at an hour that doesn't make it futile to go to bed at all. But having to do this now, in March, when the gentle warm light of the rising sun has only just started to make me feel as though mornings aren't so bad after all, and that maybe a nice cup of hot green tea and a muffin would be worth getting up earlier than usual for, seems almost cruel.

It has just started to be lighter earlier in the mornings. I've just (well, okay, except for this past week) started waking up naturally a little earlier, and feeling a little more awake in the mornings. Yet here we go again; in exchange for an extra hour of light in the evenings we lose that morning wakefulness, and will (some of us) stumble around half-awake for days trying to get used to it.

I honestly don't understand the need for Daylight Saving Time at all, let alone the need to have it come so early in March. Do we really save energy this way? Considering how many stores, businesses etc. are open twenty-four hours a day, using lights and electricity all day long no matter how light it is outside, does it really make a dent on electricity use if people come home from temperature-controlled, brightly-lighted offices, swing by the temperature controlled, brightly-lighted day care centers to pick up their children, stop at the cleaners and pick up a fast food dinner from a restaurant that uses more electricity in a week than the family uses in a month, and then get home and leave the lights off a whole extra half-hour or so (assuming they don't rush in and turn on the TV anyway?).

Of course, the real question is, why change the clocks back to standard time at all? Right now, DST lasts from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. So standard time only covers a few weeks of November, all of December, January, and February, and a week or so of March. Does it really make sense to keep changing clocks backward and forward all the time, especially when Congress can't seem to decide just how many months ought to be DST in the first place?

In fact, according to this website, Congress made all of 1973 a daylight saving time year. The "End Daylight Saving Time" site further challenges us to consider this: if DST really saves energy, why not do it all year long? And if DST does not save energy, why not abolish it altogether?

Excellent questions, I think. I'll be pondering them tomorrow morning, when my body insists that it's really only 5 a.m. but my brain is trying to insist that it is six, and time to get up.


Charlotte (Matilda) said...

Thanks for the reminder!

Rachelle said...

I am all in favor of getting rid of this and have been since my first born's birth 10 years ago. I have six children with my youngest being 9 months. The time changes create chaos big time at our house. Let's do away with it!

thanks for bringing this up and for the website. I didn't know it existed.

Anonymous said...

I remember the all-daylight-savings-time year. I remember going to school in the dark. I was in middle school, but smaller children had to catch the schoolbus in the dark, too. It was not fun. And it was not safe.

Likewise, I have visited England in June with a one-year-old and had to deal with the sleep deprivation because it was light and he wouldn't go to sleep until dark -- at 10 PM.

I think one of the problems is that people in the northern part of the country do have to deal with more dramatic changes in day and night than people farther south. Maybe we could take that into account? I dunno.

I hated the time changes when my kids were little, and I'm none too fond of them now, but it helps to have experienced what would happen if they weren't there (in either direction) for people in the northern part of the country, as here in MA.

Scotch Meg

eulogos said...

It is odd, but I was 23 in 1973 and I don't even remember that it was an all daylight savings time year. But then, it was an odd year for me anyway. I was trying to write a senior thesis, and I was pregnant for the first time. I have a feeling that I didn't even know about it. No one told me to change the clock, I didn't change it and I didn't think about it. I am not very oriented in time anyway.

I like DST because it means there is some time after getting home from work when I can go out in the garden, or even go down to the creek and take a swim in the summer. For myself I would like to have DST all year round because I don't mind going to work in the dark, and I like having as much daylight as possible in the evening. But I get that that might not meet other people's needs.

I never noticed a problem with the change in time, even with kids, but I think that is because I have so little time sense that we weren't really organized by the clock anyway.

Susan Peterson

Nathan said...

Erin, you're on the mark here. I enjoy the extra hour of daylight in the evening, but the transition is really a bear. I'm still in a fog, and it is Monday at work. Coffee please!!