About 40% of countries worldwide implement daylight saving time. The rest of the world wonders why.
So, to answer your burning questions…
What Is Daylight Saving Time?
Daylight Saving Time is the practice of turning the clock forward by one hour in the warmer months, and turning it back an hour in the colder part of the year.
In spring, the sun sets at a “later hour.” So, because of daylight saving, people get to enjoy another hour of sunshine on summer days.
An easy way to avoid the confusion of which way to turn your clock is to keep in mind the phrase “spring forward, fall backward.” That is, you move the clock forward in spring, and move it back in the fall season.
Where Is This Daylight Saving Time Observed?
This practice is implemented so people can make better use of their daylight hours. It is usually practiced in countries that are further away from the equator and experience a major difference in the daylight hours of summer and winter months.
DST is followed by 70 countries across the world, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, all of Europe, parts of Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
Within the U.S., all states except Hawaii and Arizona observe daylight saving time. However, the Navajo Nation area in northeast Arizona follows DST.
Additionally, American territories like American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t have DST.
When does Daylight Saving Time Happen?
The actual start of daylight saving time (the date on which the clocks are turned) varies from country to country.
In the U.S., daylight saving starts on the second Sunday of March at 2:00 A.M., when everyone across the country moves their clock forward by an hour. Daylight saving time ends on the first Sunday of November at 2:00 A.M., when clocks are moved back to normal.
The idea of people turning their clocks back and forth on an arbitrary day of the year may seem ridiculous to you.
Don’t worry, you’re not the first to question the sanity of the idea. After all, it’s not like we’re actually getting any extra hours of daylight just because clocks were turned.
But, there was some real thought that went into the creation of daylight saving time.
Why Do We Even Have Daylight Saving Time?
DST was first started in Germany and Austria during WW1 as a strategy to save fuel for war efforts by reducing its consumption for artificial lighting.
The logic was that people would spend more time outdoors during the longer daytime, and would need fewer hours of indoor lighting. Soon, the rest of Europe followed in those footsteps as well.
It was first implemented in the U.S. in 1918, but was discontinued after World War I ended. In 1942, it was introduced again, and has since evolved to the structure that is followed today.
Although the practice was initially started to maximize usage of daylight hours and reduce energy consumption, its actual impact on electricity bills these days is only around 1%.
But, there’s one impact that remains unchanged: how cranky it makes people when it begins every year.
With one in three Americans already being sleep-deprived, losing an extra hour of sleep due to daylight saving can be exhausting. For others, this change in the sleep cycle can bring up underlying health issues.
The biannual shift in time has been known to leave people groggy all week, experience annoying headaches, mood disorders, and even causes a spike in accident rates.
The reason daylight saving time messes with your body and sleep cycle so much is because it confuses your internal body clock.
Your circadian rhythm (inner body clock that manages your sleep cycle) is the reason your body naturally tends to feel sleepy around the same time every night. So, when you suddenly shift your regular sleep and wake time forward or back by an hour, it’s going to be thrown out of whack.
But, it doesn’t have to be this painful or exhausting. There are ways to make this time transition easier on your body.
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Seven Simple Ways to Get Your Body Ready for the Time Change
1. Set Your Alarm 15 Minutes Earlier
Ease your body into it by sleeping and waking up 15 mins earlier (in spring) for four days leading up to the start of DST. This may seem like too small of a difference, but when it’s done each day, it gives your body time to get used to the new sleep cycle without discomfort.
Once DST ends, don’t get excited about the extra one hour and stay up later than usual. Let your body get used to the new ‘time zone’ by hitting the sack at your normal clock time, even if you aren’t sleepy yet. It will help you wake up feeling fresher, and more adjusted.
2. Stick to The New Habit
There’s no easier way to kick a new habit than to let it go on the weekends. So, once you’ve eased your body into the new sleep schedule, ensure you stick to it consistently. Even when Friday night rolls around.
Your body will naturally get used to the new sleep cycle in a few days, and you won’t have to be cranky all day.
3. Get Yourself Some Nice, Bright Sunshine
Once you’re awake, get exposure to daylight as soon as you can. Open up your blinds, have your morning coffee next to the open window, step out for a couple of minutes, and find a way to get some sunshine.
It will wake your body up better than anything else, and sends signals to balance out your circadian rhythm.
4. Watch Your Caffeine Consumption
This one seems obvious, but funnily enough, it still isn’t followed by most people.
Your morning cup of tea or coffee is fine. But, it’s the refills through that day that really hit you hard when you’re trying to sleep.
The effects of caffeine last in your body eight to 12 hours from when you consume it. So, avoid anything with caffeine after lunch. That includes green teas, energy drinks, and even some sodas.
For extra perks, keep your body happy by staying hydrated with water throughout the day.
5. Dine early
Keep a check on your mealtimes. That 10:00 P.M. takeout you’re eating will come back to haunt you when you’re trying to sleep.
Your body experiences an increase in blood sugar levels and releases insulin when you eat a meal. So, if you eat close to bedtime, this spike in your blood sugar levels makes it difficult for you to fall asleep immediately after.
Ensure you have your final meal of the day two to three hours before your bedtime, so you can have a deep, peaceful sleep.
6. Give Your Phone a Break
Avoid staring at your phone screen right before your sleep. Avoid your TV, laptop, or tablet screen too.
Turn off all your electronics, or simply stop using them, an hour before bedtime. The blue light from these devices suppresses melatonin in your body and makes it much harder for you to fall asleep.
But, it’s not just the light that messes with your sleep. Activities like watching a dramatic Netflix show or drafting out replies to work emails stimulate your brain and keep it awake.
Give your brain time to unwind from the day and relax into a calmer state in the hour before you sleep. This will make it easier for you to fall asleep, and experience deeper sleep as well.
7. A Nap Can Work Wonders
Finally, if you begin to feel sleep-deprived in spite of all these, then take that midday nap.
Avoid sleeping in later in the mornings, as this makes it difficult for your body to get used to the new sleep cycle. Take that mid-afternoon nap as a pick-me-up to get you through the rest of the day.
Don’t overdo the nap though. Try to keep it to less than 30 minutes, and don’t nap too close to bedtime, or you won’t be able to fall asleep until late.
All in all, be patient. Give your body some extra love and care for the week as it adjusts to the new normal.
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