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Soulful Sundays: DST

Happy Daylight Savings Time! Personally, I am not a fan of DST. Namely because of its effects on sleep and other measures of health. More on that in a bit. First, some history.

Originally implemented in 1918, DST was a way to allegedly conserve energy during World War One but it has stuck around for over a century. Why? Who knows? The conservation angle has since been debunked. The US Congress made clock switching the law of the land in 1966, leaving in a clause for individual states not to observe DST only with permission from Congress. Thus far, only Arizona and Hawaii have gotten permission. Why just two states? Hawaii is so far south that there is little variation in day length, so DST doesn't make much sense, and Arizona elected to stay in Standard Time so that the sun would go down earlier in the summer and give its citizens more cool morning hours. Wouldn't New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada have a similar incentive? The whole thing is strange to me. There is more to this than meets the eye.

The observation of DST has more to do with Western culture than it has to do with anything practical. When the US standardized DST in 1966 it set the precedent for the rest of North America and Europe. We were the biggest kid on the playground, so the others just followed along. What Congress didn't consider were the downstream health impacts of drastically switching our circadian rhythms twice a year. Cardiac incidents, car accidents, and depression all increase around both the Spring and Fall time shifts. People suffer sleep disturbances and subsequent decreases in daytime focus and productivity. After a few weeks, these anomalies adjust back to baseline, but do we seriously need it to occur in the first place?

My questions are more than just rhetorical. There are a few ways that we can be more involved in this process. The first would be to write or call your local representatives (both State and Federal). This may sound Pollyanna-ish but it does work sometimes (it did in Arizona). The second would be to take steps to just stay in standard time. Go to bed an hour early, wake up an hour early, and get started on things before the rest of the world expects you. Maybe this is when you get that workout, or reading, or meditation, or meal preparation in. Then, wrap up your day earlier than you think you should. One of the reasons we keep perpetuating DST is because we feel like we are owed that extra hour in the spring. Work ends and we finally get to go enjoy the daylight, but that means dinner happens later and bedtime is delayed and we are more tired in the morning. Etc, etc, etc.

I encourage everyone to be more proactive about how they spend their time as we move into these longer days. Be intentional about getting enough sleep and not overworking yourself in the evenings. I will write a post next week about all of the things we can do to improve our sleep. Until then, simply make time for sleep. We are going to need it.

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