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Managing daylight saving time: hints, tips and history

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, March 12, 2016

JANESVILLE—Let's get this out of the way first: Daylight saving time has nothing to do with farmers.

It has to do with energy consumption.

We'll get back to that later.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, clocks will be set forward an hour.

It's the annual irritation that makes people show up for church services just as the recessional hymn sounds its final chords and gives people more daylight to enjoy after the workday ends.

It also plays havoc with sleep schedules, said Jenna Noe, registered sleep technician at St. Mary's Hospital, Janesville.

Really? The lost of 60 minutes makes a difference?

“It is a big deal,” Noe said.

First, because most people are already sleep deprived.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for most adults. Teens should get between eight to 10 hours and adults 65 and older should get seven to eight hours.

Many working adults are getting less than six hours of sleep, Noe said.

With the lost hour, sleep deprivation becomes worse.

“It makes you feel like your mind isn't working properly,” Noe said.

Second, our circadian rhythms--those sleep and wake cycles that are determined by the amount of light and darkness--are “more powerful that we realize,” Noe said.

So what's a person to do?

Adjust gradually.

It's easier to adjust bedtime, both physiologically and practically.

You can't tell your boss you were an hour late for work because you're adjusting to daylight saving time.

In addition, morning wake-up times appear to be more “hard wired” into our systems, Noe said.

As this week progresses, make your bed time adjustments incremental—and base the changes on the old time.

Let's say you usually go to bed at 10 p.m. and get up at 6 a.m.

The first night of daylight saving time, go to bed at 9 p.m. That would the old 10 p.m.

The next night, move it forward to 9:10 p.m. or 9:15 p.m.

Again, before daylight saving started, that would be 10:10 p.m. or 10:15 p.m.

Yes, you will be in bed for a longer period of time, but it will help your body ease into the transition, Noe said.

Daylight saving time is also a good chance to revisit the basics of “sleep hygiene,” those practices that help you get a good night's sleep on a regular basis.

Noe recommended:

-- Going to bed and getting up at the same time whenever possible.

-- Establishing a nighttime routine that allows you to wind down. Avoid high-stress or mentally stimulating activities. Try to find some way to imitate those routines when you are traveling for work.

-- Using your bedroom only for sleep and romance.

-- Staying away from screens including tablets, cellphones and computers. The blue light pouring off those screens is the equivalent of sunlight pouring into your brain. It's powerful enough to impact circadian rhythms, Noe said.

Designers have developed apps to filter out the blue light from screens. Screen filters are also available for purchase.

The other problem with cellphones and tablets? Often people are using them to check email, work on projects or do other activities that fall into the high stress or mentally stimulating categories. Consider leaving them out of the bedroom all together.

Now let's get back to the issue of farmers and daylight saving time.

Traditional wisdom—OK, traditional misinformation—said daylight saving time had to do with farms and milking cows or some such thing.

Not true, said David Prerau, author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.”

It was established during World War I in Germany as way to save energy. The British picked it up and the United States followed later.

Prerau told the New York Times that historians have traced the energy conservation idea to Benjamin Franklin.

When in France, Franklin found he was sleeping during the daylight hours. If you know anything about Franklin's personal life, this won't surprise you. Let's just say that as a diplomat, he did some of his best work at night.

Anyhow, Franklin suggested that French officials shoot cannons off at sunrise to wake people up—because, really, who doesn't want to be woken up by cannon fire? Franklin saw a practical side effect to this practice, Prerau told the Times. Using more daylight hours meant using fewer candles at night.

It's still connected to energy, but those who have studied it disagree on its actual impact. Others feel as though it's just another ridiculous government imposition into our personal lives.

And everybody, absolutely everybody, hates losing an hour of sleep.



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