It seems like a good idea: An extra hour of sleep every first weekend in November as we switch our clocks from daylight saving time to standard time. Sixty extra minutes under the covers just as the weather’s getting colder.
You wake up feeling OK at first, then as Sunday rolls along, you start to feel a step behind — or is it ahead? You have a hard time remembering the actual time. By Monday morning, you can’t shake the feeling you’re late for something. On Monday night, you’re driving home from work in the dark and making a mental note to Google “seasonal affective disorder.” By Tuesday night, you’re falling asleep before the end of “The Voice.”
Oh, and your dog? They know nothing about time. Just discovering that, too.
It’s much worse each first weekend in March, when we lose that hour of sleep and the jet-lag-like feeling can last up to three days. Why do we do this to ourselves twice each year?
That’s exactly what chronobiologist Erik Herzog has been asking for awhile now. Herzog is a professor of biology at Washington University and president of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms (SRBR), a scientific organization dedicated to the study of biological clocks and sleep.
These biannual time changes, Herzog said, are a constant challenge to our natural body rhythms and can affect our metabolism, sleeping and mood. It’s unnatural.
“We use an alarm clock instead of waking up when our body says it’s done sleeping,” Herzog said. “There’s an imbalance, and that can mean real consequences to our health.”
So the solution is to either stay on standard time or reset the clock and have permanent daylight saving time. Herzog and his friends at SRBR would be really happy if we just forgot the whole thing and permanently stayed on standard time, when the “sun clock” most closely matches our “social clock” time.
Despite what electric companies and politicians have been saying for years, the scientists at SRBR say we just don’t need those extra daylight hours. Any advantage they offer are outweighed by the health benefits of staying on permanent standard time.
“There’s now evidence that during daylight saving time people get less sleep — as much as 40 minutes less a day,” Herzog said. “Anything we can do to get more sleep in going to help us with our health.”
So what can we do? I’m sure Rep. Ann Wagner and her staff would love to hear your thoughts, because it will take an act of Congress to change anything.
In the meantime, make sure you stay caught up on your sleep, eat well and exercise. Respect your biorhythms. And hope that by now your dog knows the difference between 4 and 5 a.m.