Shucking Oysters: Falling Back
By Alex Allen
Daylight Saving Time (DST). Either you love it or you don’t. I think it depends on whether you’re a morning or a night person. I’m a two in the afternoon person. I do love the extra hour in the fall, however. I don’t like the fact that we have to give it back in the spring. Someone once wrote that DST is like the government cutting off the bottom of a blanket and sewing it back on the top and saying ,”see its longer now.” Unless, you’re hibernating, you may have noticed that we already are starting to experience shorter daylight hours. It’s just that after November 5, it will be even darker for another four months.
The changing of the clocks has been a topic of debate for years. Ontario unanimously passed the Time Amendment Act in 2020, and is waiting for New York and Quebec to get on board. BC passed a similar bill to make daylight time permanent in 2019 after 93% of residents voiced their support (I was one). Like Ontario, BC is waiting for Washington, Oregon and California to make the first move.
In the US, Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Nation), as well as some territories, do not observe DST. In Canada, permanent daylight time is currently only observed in northwestern BC, Creston, BC, Yukon, most of Saskatchewan, and a few other odd spots. Creston has one of the most peculiar time zones in Canada. The town is in the eastern part of BC, but over a century ago CP Rail decided to put the valley and the East Kootenays in the mountain time zone, aligning them with Alberta. That means Creston is on Pacific time in the summer and mountain time for the other seasons.
The real reasons for daylight saving are based on energy conservation and a desire to match daylight hours to the times when most people are awake. Despite predictions of reduced consumption, data indicating energy savings has been elusive. But the benefits of this change are controversial. For one, our dog does not like it all. What do you mean, I have to wait an hour to get fed? And then finally, he’s adjusted to the time change in March and then we go, sorry we’re going back again. Every year. The poor schmuck.
After the clocks change, it can take some of us a week or two to adjust to our new sleep pattern. But the bigger problem comes from what sleep researchers oddly call “social jet lag,” where people suffer from disrupted sleep, mental and physical fatigue, metabolism issues and more. I get the “jet lag” part but not the “social” part. While springing forward is more associated with negative health effects, falling back has been linked to depression, cluster headaches, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The connection between DST and sleep disturbances in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia is also particularly concerning, as sleep plays a vital role in cognitive function and memory consolidation. Sleep disturbances can exacerbate the cognitive decline, making it even more difficult for individuals to perform daily activities and maintain independence.
Some say the ideal solution is to switch to permanent standard time. But if we are going to have daylight time, it should begin later in the year to ensure that there’s more morning light for early risers. Another brilliant suggestion is having the clocks change on Friday nights to give people more time over the weekend to adjust.
But the downsides of night time light are not always crystal clear. One study, for example, suggested that year-round DST would reduce deer-vehicle collisions. But studies like these can be hard to interpret. Other factors may come into play, like deer’s seasonal activity and changing road conditions.
Beside making the world seem like a darker place, one annual effect of this event is a huge amount of studies proclaiming that DST is a bad idea that needs to end. It doesn’t really help anyone, they say, but it does throw off sleep patterns.
Dan Nosowitz wrote in Popular Mechanics: “What these articles and arguments tend to ignore is that DST is a bizarre idea in the best way possible: It is a human attempt to force our lives to fit the natural world in a more sensible way, to #lifehack ourselves into a pattern of living that benefits our minds and bodies. DST is both a rebellion against the clock and an acceptance that we are all slaves to the clock.”
In reality, DST is an eight-month experiment designed to make life apparently more pleasurable for us human beings. Getting exercise, spending time outside in the morning, and light therapy can help during the fall and winter. A 2019 study found that there is a magic number of hours we need to spend outside each week to see a positive net gain in health and well-being. That number is two. Interestingly, five hours a week outside offered no additional health benefits. Plus, when we go outside, we spend more time in face-to-face interactions with real live human beings. Something that most of us have been out of practice with for the last two years. A few extra minutes outside each week smiling at other people’s faces is not a bad thing. Unless, of course, they don’t smile back because their suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.