Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It’s That TIME Again

Sunday, March 13 was that time again--time to “spring forward” one hour in time, set our clocks ahead and lose one hour of much-needed sleep in the process.

If you’re like me, you are probably still feeling the effects of this time disorientation, the loss of sleep, and in general getting your body in tune with a new schedule that means arising earlier, and, if you’re wise, going to bed earlier.

Researchers are now conducting research to see how healthy time changes in the spring and in the fall are for us. Not absolutely confirmed yet, with more research progressing, scientists who study the effects of time change on individuals have unveiled some interesting data.

The thesis is that shifting our internal clocks twice a year has adverse effects on health and well-being. In the spring-forward mode, sleep deprivation is a big loss which affects nearly everyone. Most people do not get enough sleep at best, given factors that rob of rest and sleep. When a “required” loss of sleep, such as moving the clock forward a whole hour occurs, it takes the body days, even weeks, to adjust. It is not likely in the fall when we “fall back” an hour, that the body will adjust any better to new sleeping patterns. Sleep deprivation, then is one of the first and most marked health issues of time changes.

Another finding published in the “Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics” found that abrupt time changes adversely affect mental function. For example, when a control group of high school students in Indiana were given the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) shortly after the spring time change, the group dropped 16 points in total test scores following the loss of an hour of sleep. Sleepy children in schools and less-alert workers at jobs also take tolls in mental acuity and work production.

Several studies have found that traffic accidents increase by a sizeable percentage (in Canada, by 8%) after the spring time-forward. Likewise, studies show that traffic accidents increase in the fall when dusk comes early and as persons drive home in the dark after a long day at work are much more prone to have accidents.

A study in Sweden revealed that heart attacks increased by at least 6% following the time-forward adjustment in spring.

I did a little research to see when and why the laws adjusting time in spring and fall came about in the first place. Go back a long time for the idea for this law, although it took years for the Congress and Presidents of the United States to act on the idea. In 1784, America’s venerable Benjamin Franklin, inventor, writer and U. S. Ambassador to France, came up with the idea for Daylight Saving Time. It happened like this. Franklin had seen a demonstration of a new kind of oil lamp in France that made a big difference in how a room was lighted. Franklin, who was 78 at the time he wrote his tongue-in-cheek essays about time, also liked to stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing chess and other board games with his French friends, one of whom was Antoine Francois Cadet de Vaux, editor of “Journal de Paris.” Because of his late-night habits, Franklin seldom saw the sun rise, but slept until noon or after.

After having seen the famous oil lamp and how much light it furnished, Franklin awoke, thinking the lamps were on in his room. But he had awakened early enough to see the dawning, with his shades open. He conceived the idea of how thrifty it would be to make use of more daylight time rather than using so much fuel to furnish artificial light. And hence came the concept of moving clocks forward to take advantage of daylight in the spring, and moving them back in the fall for the same reason. His friend, Cadet de Vaux, published the essays in a series entitled “An Economical Project.”

It was not, however, until World War I that Franklin’s ideas, proposed in 1784, were actually adopted. On April 30, 1916, Germany and Austria advanced clocks one hour. Several European countries followed suit, and the United States changed time two years later. The first law here about moving the clocks forward an hour in the spring was made effective on March 19, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson overrode the rule in 1919.

During World War II, to save fuel and other economic aspects in the war effort, Daylight Saving Time was enacted from February 9, 1942 through September 30, 1945. President Franklin Roosevelt endorsed it. Never completely happy with the time change, citizens after World War II wanted “the old time” back. Again in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act, the forward and backward setting of the clocks was again enacted. The law was revised in 1972 to move forward an hour on the first Sunday in April and to move backward the last Sunday in October. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act began the time change on the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November, as the changes still occur.

Complain about it as we may, have trouble adjusting to it as we do, and fearing the hazards to our health that research scientists have revealed, time changes seem to now be a part of how we are ordered to do things. And so, like it or not, we adjust…and mark our hours of daylight and darkness. Some believe time change obliquely affects even the economy--not only in saving electricity and other fuel for lighting, but to provide more daylight hours for shoppers to go to stores and make purchases, thus boosting our struggling economy.

Flowers and plants turn their heads to follow the sun and gain every ray possible from the light. As we in turn spring forward and fall back at the appropriate times, we, like the natural world, are trying to follow a way to get more benefits from sunlight hours.

c2011 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published March 17, 2011 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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