Ester Marsh: Daylight savings time begins

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 11, 2023

Daylight savings starts this weekend!

Truly, I wish they stop messing with the time change in the spring and in the fall. When I talk to people, I have never met one person that says, “I love changing that hour twice a year!” An old Native American chief said this about daylight savings time: “Only the white man’s government would be so stupid as to cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it onto the bottom, and think they have a longer blanket.” I must say, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Maybe back in the days when there was no or little electricity and the farmers could work longer hours in spring and summer when they are in their busiest seasons. For many years people say, “I think we are going to do away with daylight savings.” Well, I am still waiting. I think you can feel that one hour makes a huge difference for me! And again, this spring, I will have to put on my big girl panties, suck it up and move forward! In the spring we move forward and lose that hour of sleep.

Anytime the time changes, or even when you cross different time zones, you “mess” with your biological clock. It is an internal biological clock that regulates the timing for sleep in humans. The activity of this clock makes us sleepy at night and awake during the day. Our clock cycles an approximately 24-hour period. We spend about one third of our lives asleep! Sleep is a required activity, not an option. Sleep actually appears to be required for survival. Rats deprived of sleep will die within two to three weeks, a time frame similar to death due to starvation.

A misconception about sleep is that the body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules. The biological clock that times and controls a person’s sleep/wake cycle will attempt to function according to a normal day/night schedule even when that person is trying to change it. The biological clock can be reset, but only by the appropriately timed cues, but, even then, by one or two hours per day at best.

My son just flew to Germany for business and he loses six hours getting there. He arrived in Germany at 7 a.m. local time, which is 1 a.m. here. But when you arrive, it is daylight which makes it very hard to go to sleep, or even to feel sleepy. Later on that day, due to sleep deprivation, he most likely will crash (as does his mother). Fortunately, he has a day to catch up before his big meeting.

Sleep deprivation can produce a number of unwanted effects including excessive sleepiness, poor sleep, loss of concentration, poor motor control, slowed reflexes, nausea and irritability. In the fall when we set our time back, it is easier to adjust to that one hour change due to the fact you are gaining time. The same is the case with eastward travel it generally causes more severe jetlag than westward travel. (When you travel east you lose time, when you travel west, you gain time). For some people one hour change does not really make a difference, and for some people (like me) it makes a huge difference.

This is what helps me: Get up at the usual time. If that is 5 a.m., get up at 5. My biological clock says it is 4 a.m.. By getting up and starting your day you will get in the swing of things within a couple of days. Of course it helps when it is light outside to start your day early. It’s as important for you go to bed at the same time you usually do, with this one hour change you might not be “tired” but go to bed anyway. In a couple of days to a week you will be used to the time change. While traveling over time zones, especially in a plane, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Stay away from caffeine and alcohol. On arrival (and return) make sure you eat a well-balanced diet and hydrate your body appropriately. Limit alcohol consumption as it does not promote good sleep. And last, but definitely not least, exercise! Again, exercise has all these positive effects on your body and mind!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley YMCA.