As Sunday brought a close to the 2011 Daylight Saving Time, ushered in were an assortment of relief, doubts, and inquiries. The most pressing views challenged whether this supposed energy-preserving, society-reviving system still left room for correlation with the shifting lifestyles that characterize today’s generation. Folks still fatigued from March help make the pool of individuals wanting to re-question the logic behind what has felt like a blindly-followed practice.
Not surprisingly, the installment of Daylight Saving Time emerged with the observations of an ever-curious 78-year-old Benjamin Franklin. Enlightened when he awoke at 6 a.m. to a sunny Paris morning, Franklin wrote to The Journal of Paris with his belief and calculations that skipping the clock ahead between March and September would lessen the lighting of candles and help in promoting sunshine as a more efficient form of illumination.
This newfound fervor in a realm little-before examined swept George Vernon Hudson and William Willett, both of whom independently advanced the idea between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Compiled from the works of these great thinkers is the present system: clocks are advanced one hour beginning the first Sunday of March and retrieve the time lapse with the arrival of the second Sunday of November. The cleverly coined euphemism “spring forward, fall back” is often referred to.
The dispute has persisted across generations over whether the same principles of energy conservation that accompanied Franklin’s idea of Daylight Saving Time could still hold true for this era. While it is traditionally speculated that adding an extra hour encourages individuals to spend the evening outdoors as opposed to racking up the electricity bill, knowing that air-conditioning systems, among other integral electronic devices, continue to govern the way we live makes one question whether the net save in energy is as convincing after all.
Proponents of Daylight Saving Time will be sure to counter the critics with an indirect benefit, supposedly that the increased daylight in the evening will encourage participation in more circuit-free, family-friendly activities, preferably walks in the park or bike rides.
Although aware of a few potentially positive attributes and some trivial, I feel there remains one fundamental aspect that is continually disregarded when weighing out the benefits and ill effects of Daylight Saving Time: sleep.
Upheld for decades, and continuously reaffirmed by medical institutions, sleep and the implications from a lack of it plague our world in a poor way. Dr. William C. Dement, who titled headlines after opening the Sleep Research Center at Stanford University, made public and readily accessible his views on the significance of sleep in “The Promise of Sleep” and again in “The Sleepwatcher.”
Analyzers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand spoke to the National Sleep Foundation, “There is strong evidence that shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common-sense ‘do not injury’ medical advice would be to avoid sleep-deprivation.”
There shouldn’t be a need to even detail the immune system deficiency, hormone irregularities, slowed organ development, fluctuating body weight, and heightened susceptibility to heart attacks that can greet an exhausted being.
With daily occurrences extending themselves to the point that they administer the late-night lives of much of society, it is almost as if there remains little urgency to conduct official experiments to prove the negative effects of tampering with sleep. For the most part, we, ourselves, have become the living proof.
It is logical, then, that the time modifications that accompany Daylight Saving Time do not turn our internal clock forward in the same swift motion it does our wristwatch, and Dr. John Sharp’s recent revelations to Fox News suggest that even the ending of this period summons calls of complications from each human body. In his words, “The fallback hour adjustment is…not just an extra hour of sleep, it’s more of a fast-forward into winter.”
Perhaps these four days have been enough for our most resilient folks, but as for the individuals still coping with the body-changing aftermath, let it be known: while the sun may be escaping our view earlier with each approaching day, let us strive to ensure our inherent rays of enthusiasm don’t depart with it.
— Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society.