Have you noticed that it's been getting darker outside a bit earlier than it used to? Is that confusing you? Making you think that aliens have stolen a few hours of our sunlight as part of a larger plan to destroy us? Well, don't worry!
Tomorrow we're going to change our clocks so that you stop thinking we're all going to be abducted...right now, anyway. If everything goes according to plan, that'll happen in like six months.
BUT ANYWAY, for those of us who couldn't care less about what time it gets darker or lighter outside, you may be wondering when and why we started this clock-changing business to begin with. Thankfully, Scientific American is here to explain it to us:
The railroads were the first to set the time in the 19th century, coordinating distant clocks so that trains could run on theoretically precise timetables (this cut down on crashes.). You can also thank railroads for time zones-geographic swaths of the globe set to the same hour.
But it was evening-time activists like entomologist George Vernon Hudson and golfer William Willett who can be blamed for Daylight Saving Time. Noting that a little extra well-lit time on a balmy evening would be nicer than in the morning when everybody's asleep anyway, the two independently proposed shifting clocks forward for the spring and summer. Governments soon seized upon the idea as a way to cut down on energy use - more sunlight in the evening means less coal-burned to provide artificial alternatives.
This all sounds well and good but it's 2011 and not only are those reasons pretty much void now, some people are actually saying that Daylight Saving Time is also bad for your health:
Changing back and forth to Daylight Saving Time twice a year seems to be bad for human health - from increased risk of heart attack to more mine accidents. Nevertheless, in 2007, the U.S. Congress saw fit to extend Daylight Saving Time‘s reign from earlier in spring to deeper into fall in 2007.
So why don't we just switch over to standard time and figure it out ourselves without having to remember something about springing forward and falling back? Because according to MSNBC —sick as it might make us— humans are actually pretty into Daylight Saving Time. In the fall, anyway:
"Light is the most important timekeeper that signals to our bodies when we're supposed to be awake, so when are clocks are more in sync with the sun, it makes it easier," explains Dr. Anita Shelgikar, a University of Michigan neurologist. "It's certainly easier to adjust than it is in the spring."
Waking up when it's still dark for hours confuses your brain: You're up and going about your morning routine — but your body and brain think you should still be sleeping. "That's why it's particularly important to expose your eyes to light first thing," Shelgikar says. If you'll still be rising before it's light out after we turn our clocks back, she advises to turn on the lights right after waking up — don't tiptoe around your house in the dark!
I don't know if I'm entirely sold on this argument. If anything, it's entirely possible that most people just love the feeling of getting something sorta special —in this case a "bonus hour"— enough to ignore the possible health risks and kind-of-ridiculous clock alterations.
And more power to them. Because Daylight Saving Time will probably outlive us all.
Why Daylight Saving Time Should Be Abolished [Scientific American]