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Kari Henley

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Time to Spring Ahead! Daylight Saving Drama

Posted: 03/14/10 12:15 PM ET

If you are reading this on Sunday and haven't set your clock ahead, you're probably late for something. At 1:59 a.m. March 14th, the clocks moved ahead to 3:00 a.m. Daylight Saving Time has arrived, and the phrase, "Spring Ahead" means we lose an hour of time -- poof -- just like that. Those first mornings are brutal, aren't they? Our house is crabby for a week. Makes me wonder what the heck is behind Daylight Saving anyway. Where did it come from and is it worth the hassle?

Daylight Saving Time, or Summer Time, as it is called elsewhere, was conceived to make better use of daylight hours, and move an hour of light from the morning to the evening. Some like it, and many don't. According to webexhibits, work productivity decreases as everyone adjusts to the time change. Auto accidents increase and sleep disturbances certainly affect adults as well as children. Heart attacks seem to spike the first week of Daylight Saving.

Farmers hate it. "The chickens don't adapt to the changing clock until several weeks later," said Canadian poultry producer Marty Notenbomer. Mother Nature and her animals could care less about our human trickery.

Turns out, our very own Benjamin Franklin first conceived the idea of shifting daylight in 1784, but it wasn't enacted into law in the United States until 1918, when the standard time zones were also established. It was then repealed in 1919, with a Congressional override of President Wilson's veto, and control went to individual states. The idea has been filled with controversy, split implementation, and mixed results ever since.

In 1947, writer Robert Davies let his irritation be known with this quote, "I object to being told I am saving daylight when reason tells me I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As a lover of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it."

In the 1940's-1960's there was so much confusion over which towns were observing Daylight Saving and when, that the railroad and radio stations could barely function. In 1965 the adjoining towns of Minneapolis and St. Paul couldn't agree on whether to observe Daylight Savings. The result was a one hour time difference within the same local district. Imagine the hassle with that one!

Finally a national standardizing law was finally passed in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act. It was revised in the 70's and again in the 80's. In 2005, the passage of the Energy Policy Act was passed, which extended Daylight Saving Time by four weeks, with the hope that it would save 10,000 barrels of oil each day through reduced use of power by businesses during daylight hours. Unfortunately, it is possible that little or no energy is saved by Daylight Saving Time. We love our air conditioners, and with longer evenings, a cold mint julep just isn't going to cut it.

In 2005, several counties in Indiana observed daylight savings - with the incentive it they would save an estimated $7 million in electricity costs. However, after studies were conducted, it turned out they actually spent $8.6 million more -- most likely due to the increased use of air conditioners later in the day after work. I remember the hot summer months when electrical grids in the East Coast were straining to keep up with the demand, and wonder if daylight savings may have outworn its use.

I had no idea this one little hour lost was filled with so much hassle and so much history. Clearly we are creatures of habit, and the circadian rhythms are flowing in our bodies for good reason. Biological clocks are not meant to be switched at a whim. Even algae has a biological clock, and when researchers at Vanderbilt University disrupted the clock the algae grew much more slowly than normal algae.

So, how do we all adjust to this nuisance and manage to Spring our biological clock ahead? Naps don't seem to help, and it is advised not to look at the clock during the day, but allow your body to naturally adjust to the light change. The best bet is to get out for a run or brisk walk to help kick in some extra serotonin. After a day or two, the routine resumes for most.

What do you think Huff Po readers? Do you love Daylight Saving Time or hate it? How do you adjust? Is the change becoming an energy and financial drain on our economy? Love to hear your comments below.

 

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