Daylight saving: Its history and how to cope with the transition to standard time
This year’s daylight saving ended on Nov. 1. Here’s how to cope with shorter winter days.
This year’s daylight saving time officially ended at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1. According to a CBS News article, approximately seven in 10 Americans “prefer not to switch back and forth to mark daylight saving time.” Although an inconvenience for many, daylight saving time was once an efficient way to save electricity. Understanding the history of daylight saving time might give you some perspective on its importance and help you adjust to standard time.
The concept of adjusting time to match the changes in seasons can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The Romans, for instance, changed the number of minutes in each hour to 44 minutes during the winter and to 75 minutes during the summer. In the modern world, the concept of shifting clocks forward during the summer months is believed to have emerged in 1905. William Willett, a British builder, proposed the idea of moving the clocks forward by 80 minutes between the months of April and October. After publishing his famous brochure, “The Waste of Daylight,” Willett took his idea to British Parliament on four occasions. His plan was met with opposition from other citizens and members of Parliament, and was subsequently rejected. Willmett died of influenza in 1915, and his idea was adopted in 1916, two years into World War I. Germany was the first country to adopt daylight saving time in an attempt to lower electricity use. Just like Germany, other European countries involved in the war faced major coal shortages. By shifting the clocks back an hour, citizens could take advantage of natural light and rely on electricity less. In the United States, this change was implemented in 1918 for the same reasons.
Although introduced in 1918, the United States repealed the daylight saving act just seven months after passing it. However, multiple cities, including Boston and New York, continued to use it, which caused some confusion among individuals that traveled across state lines. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced daylight saving time at the national level but enforcement of it ceased in 1945. It wasn’t the United States passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that there was a national consensus on time changes. Since then, daylight saving standards have been changed a couple of times to adjust to national issues. Currently, all states follow the rules set forth by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Per this law, clocks are set an hour back on the first Sunday of November at 2 a.m. local time, and are set forward an hour on the second Sunday of March, also at 2 a.m. local time.
This year, clocks were set back an hour on Nov. 1. This marked the end of daylight saving time, which began on March 8. While the time change gives everyone an extra hour of sleep, it also brings forth a number of challenges as individuals adjust to earlier sunsets and colder temperatures. This can be especially difficult in a world as dominated by technology as ours, where social media and activities are available 24 hours a day and individuals are less likely to base their sleep schedules on the patterns of the sun.
There are multiple ways to ease the transition to the colder winter months, all highly dependent on what works for a specific individual. For those who are having trouble adjusting, the Justice compiled the following tips in the hopes that it will make this change more manageable:
- Try to go outside during the day. Scheduling a time of day to go outside for a walk or simply sit in the sun can be extremely helpful. While potentially dangerous in excess and without sunscreen, sunlight is thought to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Low serotonin levels are linked to psychiatric pathologies like major depressive disorder and anxiety. The link between serotonin and sunlight is not well understood, although it could provide an explanation for the prevalence of seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression triggered by the changes in season. If you are currently in New England, take advantage of the higher temperatures forecasted for this week to go outside and get some sunlight exposure.
- Get some exercise. Making time for exercise during this part of the semester is difficult. Finals are quickly approaching, and for many students on campus, it is almost time to return home for winter break. Exercise has long been associated with positive health outcomes, including better sleep, reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, improved concentration and circadian rhythm stability. With shorter days, your circadian rhythm, the biological clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles, might be affected. Exercising at the same time each day, as well as having consistent sleep and eating schedules, can help keep your circadian rhythm on track. The Brandeis Athletics Department is still offering socially-distanced and/or virtual group exercise classes ranging from zumba and yoga to High Intensity Interval Training. If you are unable to attend, there are a number of social media platforms, including YouTube, that offer free workout series. Check out some of the Justice’s favorite YouTube workout videos.
- Avoid using technology before going to bed. Brain pathways that release melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep, are triggered by darkness. The light from phone or computer screen can interfere with melatonin release, and ultimately make it harder for you to fall asleep. The general recommendation is to avoid using your phone or any other electronic device during the 30 minutes before going to bed. Instead, try reading a book or journaling. If you are unable to put your phone or laptop away for a while before going to bed, make sure you activate “night mode,” which has been proven to reduce some of the light stimulation in your brain. You should also avoid watching adrenaline-inducing clips or images, as this might prompt your body to stay awake. Not only is sleep crucial to proper functioning, but good sleep is also associated with better mental health outcomes and, as previously mentioned, can help preserve the integrity of your circadian rhythm.
- Give yourself a break. This semester has been challenging for everyone. Zoom fatigue and general exhaustion are prevalent, and taking a break might seem impossible with so many assignments and deadlines. However, working tirelessly without breaks, signing up for too many extracurriculars and failing to say “no,” can rapidly lead to burnout and decreased academic performance. Setting time aside each week to do something that you genuinely enjoy, even if it is not necessarily “productive,” can help you recharge, relax and organize yourself. Giving yourself a break is also an act of self-compassion and self-care! You can do anything from preparing or ordering a nice meal to hanging out with friends to watching a movie or TV show. Just remember to follow public health guidelines when applicable.