This weekend we will "Fall Back" once again for Daylight Savings Time. Every year, we hear the arguments for and against, and the debate has even made it to the ballot this year in California. Where you live in the country, what time you go to work, and your personal habits and lifestyle can all affect your positive or negative view of DST. So what are the issues surrounding DST, and why should we be paying attention?
The reasons typically given in support of DST are energy savings, more relaxation time in the evenings, and reduced traffic fatalities as people drive more safely in daylight. With the advent of more efficient lighting technology (LED's), general power consumption has been decreased, so energy savings are happening regardless of daylight hours. As far as traffic fatalities, that depends on your location, and what time you commute. For many people, the increase in evening hours is the most significant benefit of Daylight Savings Time. Longer summer evenings allow more time for relaxation and enjoying the outdoor elements each day after work.
The main reasons against DST are the inconsistency of time zones around the country and the disruption of circadian rhythms. Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue, light. Our bodies depend on light for setting our internal clock which can become out of sync and mismatched with our current day-night cycle when clocks move forward or backwards.
What can be done to minimize the effects of DST? It has been proven that light suppresses the secretion of the sleep-inducing melatonin. Therefore, limiting your exposure to bright light when it is dark outside is essential. For example, if you get up at night to go to the bathroom, do not turn on the light.
As November's Fall Back is upon us in just a few days, Harvard Medical School's Dr Laura Barger highly recommends that individuals prioritize and use that extra hour to recharge their bodies with sleep. It is also crucial to create sleep-friendly environments and enhance your chances of falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping soundly. Reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, exercising several hours before bedtime, creating calming rituals such as taking a hot bath before bed, and wearing earplugs and eye masks are just a few ways to improve your sleep ritual. Also noteworthy is going to bed and rising at the same time every day. Though there is no evidence that specific diets will influence your circadian rhythm, carbohydrates tend to make it easier to fall asleep.
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