Spring Forward, Fall Back


The government-mandated biannual jet lag we experience twice a year is due to the practice of setting our clocks forward an hour during the “Saving Time” period, and then back an hour in the Autumn when we return to “Standard Time.”

Most of the U.S abides by this craziness, sans Arizona, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Most of Asia and Africa, along with parts of Australia and South America don’t observe daylight saving time.

Before the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed, states and counties could decide when to set clocks forward and back. This created much confusion.

As detailed in the book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time” by Tufts University professor Michael Downing, before the U.S. Uniform Time Act of 1966, “there were 130 cities in the country with populations of 100,000 or more … fifty-nine did not observe daylight saving. Of the 71 cities that did, there were at least 20 different adoption dates.”

“In Minnesota, St. Paul was on one time, Minneapolis was on a different time, and Duluth was on Wisconsin time. In fact, somebody even found a Minneapolis office building in which the different floors of the building were observing different time zones because they were the offices of different counties.”

Now the national time change is standardized. Daylight Saving begins at 2am on the second Sunday of March. This year that’s March 13, (next year’s March 14 start is as late into the month as it’s possible to get). We turn clocks back an hour the first Sunday in November, which falls on Nov. 6 in 2016.

Why Are We Doing This?

The point of Daylight Saving Time was to save daylight that was being wasted while we sleep. Move the clock forward, and more sleeping would happen in the dark, and there would be a reduced need for artificial lighting.

That may have worked back when lightbulbs were the primary power drains in a home, but it’s unlikely that people now are using their TVs, computers and other appliances less during Daylight Saving Time. The savings currently associated with Daylight Saving Time are estimated to be under two percent. But hey, people get an extra hour of daylight in the evening to frisk about and enjoy the sunshine.

How To Deal With Daylight Saving Time

One hour less of sleep doesn’t seem like it should be a huge issue, but studies show that it does impact our levels of alertness. But there isn’t complete agreement on the effects. Some studies show that car accidents can go up during the first week of Daylight Saving Time, and people with physical jobs may suffer more workplace injuries.

Studies have also shown a small increase (about 5 percent) in the risk of heart attacks and strokes, again only during the first few days following clocks being set forward. The reason for this is believed to be that stress hormones may be released due to lack of sleep. These hormones increase inflammation, which can cause problems in people already at risk for heart attacks or strokes.

People who have migraines may also find that they experience headaches in the week after setting clocks forward in the Spring, and when the clocks shift backwards in the Fall.

There have been no studies on the correlation of dental issues with Daylight Savings Time, but it seems logical that increased inflammation might affect your teeth and gums as well. Pay special attention to oral hygiene around this time. It might be a good idea to schedule a regular dental checkup a week or two before Daylight Saving Time commences in the Spring to address any issues you might have before the clocks click forward. (No dental insurance? Find out how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.)

Most people will just experience grogginess, a bit of difficulty focusing on work, and may find their creativity and decision making skills are a little less robust than usual. In general, people adjust to Daylight Saving Time within a few days. People who are more nocturnal may need a couple of weeks to fully get into the swing of things.

Ways to mitigate the problems associated with Daylight Saving Time include:

Go to Sleep

Saturday night may be your time to stay up late, but try adopting a weekday schedule this weekend. Go to sleep and get up as you would if it was a work day. Or try going to sleep and waking up 10-15 minutes earlier for the next few days. This gives your body some time to adjust to the new schedule before you have to head off to work on Monday.

Get some Sun

Get out there in the morning and suck up the sunlight to help ease the transition to less sleeping time in the AM.

Improve Your Sleep Habits

If Daylight Saving Time is a real challenge for you, you’re probably don’t get enough sleep year-round. To address sleep deprivation consider reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol intake, add more exercise to your daily routine, and learn some relaxation techniques. You may want to come up with a wind-down ritual that enables you to start relaxing before you go to bed –  turning down the lights and TV/music, staying away from the brightly-lit screen of your computer/tablet/phone an hour before bedtime, etc.



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