Standard Time

pocket watch and book

Falling Back, Staying Put, or…?

Early this Sunday morning, clocks in most places in North America fell back by one hour, to Standard Time. (Okay, so a whole lot of smart phones jumped the gun, so to speak, a week early. Maybe courtesy of a Halloween gremlin?)

Falling back and springing forward has been happening for decades. The idea was to save energy. Or to lengthen summer evenings and not have the crack of dawn arrive at 4 a.m. Until recently, the change happened every 6 months, but “since 2007, in areas of Canada and the United States of America in which it is used, daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November.” (So says Wikipedia.)

As you read this, keep in mind that the tilt of the Earth relative to the Sun, and the consequent changes in day length in different places, is real and unchangeable (at least by us humans). Clock time, on the other hand, is a human construct. Until the past couple of centuries, humans managed their sleeping and waking by the sun. Now most of us are governed by clocks and artificial light.

For the past decade or so, there has been a lot of grumbling about the semiannual clock change, especially in spring, when suddenly you’re late or sleep deprived, or both. Serious proposals have been made to just stop this nonsense already. The province of British Columbia and a handful of US western states were working out a plan for permanent Daylight Saving Time just before the Covid pandemic began. The rationale was, we’re on DST for 8 months of the year already; why not just keep it year round? Like many other things, the plan was derailed by the virus.

One Canadian jurisdiction, the Yukon Territory, actually changed to permanent DST in 2020. I haven’t been able to find out how that went for people who live there, but a proposition for permanent DST was recently voted down by a narrow margin in the province of Alberta. This article addressed some of the pros and cons.

Recently, I’ve heard and read arguments against permanent DST and in favour of permanent Standard Time. Experts on sleep (not cats, but people who study sleep scientifically) say that year round DST would diverge too much from the natural sleep-wake cycle baked into our physiology. Especially in northern latitudes, sunrise in winter would happen as late as 10 a.m., which would mess us up as much as the twice a year clock change, only the effect would be of longer duration. So we’d experience more grumpiness, accidents, heart attacks, etc.

It seems that morning light has all kinds of benefits, both mental and physical. Forcing people to get up and out while their brain and body think they should still be asleep has bad effects such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and even obesity. Standard Time synchs clocks with sunrise better than Daylight Time would if the latter were maintained in winter. The later sunrises and lingering evenings of Daylight Time in summer are not shown to have those fundamental benefits.

These arguments do make sense to me, now that I’ve heard them expressed by different experts and thought about them for a while. To be truthful, the clock changes didn’t bother me that much when I was working, but then I’m lucky to have few problems getting to sleep and staying that way for at least 7 hours. And now that I’m retired, being on time isn’t as important. I lived in the province of Saskatchewan for twelve years (1980 to 1992), where permanent Standard Time is in place, with no plans to change, as far as I know. The only inconvenience there was figuring out what time it was in other places before making a phone call.

What do you think of the semiannual clock change? Are you okay with “Spring forward, fall back,” or do you want it done away with?

And here are a few garden sights from October…

Featured image from Pixabay