For the first time since I can remember, setting back the clocks this weekend didn’t bother me. Usually, the shift to earlier sunrise and the quickening of darkness at day’s end leave me feeling a bit claustrophobic until my circadian cycle readjusts. But not this fall. Oddly, the changeover feels like it fits.
There’s been a lot of debate about whether we should change the clocks at all. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the so-called Sunshine Protection Act last year, but then the bill stalled in the House of Representatives. Given the current chaos in Congress, I doubt if it will go anywhere soon, but the goal is to make Daylight Savings Time permanent, nationwide. Why? The main arguments involve, in part, the notion that more daylight hours for evening activities will provide an economic boost for restaurants and entertainment venues.
Compare that to a push by the American Association of Sleep Medicine (AASM), which advocates for sticking with standard time year-round. Here the rationale is that standard time better aligns with our bodies’ natural rhythms. More sunlight earlier in the day helps our brains to shut down production of the sleep hormone melatonin and switch over to wakefulness.
I had read about this debate last year, and when we switched to DST last March, I felt very off-kilter. Now I feel back in synch. Coincidence, or the power of suggestion? I have no clue.
In any case, everyone seems to agree that switching back and forth twice a year is not good for anyone. According to the AASM, this time toggling actually increases risk of heart attack and strokes, mood disturbances and even suicides.
I’m curious to see how I feel as darkness settles sooner over the next few weeks. Not having to drive back from a doctor’s appointment in Boston in late afternoon or run errands at the end of the day definitely helps me to adjust. So does focusing on the stark light of November, when trees are bare and the shadows sharp, a time of transition that I find particularly striking.
And so does the knowledge that in just over six weeks, our days here in the Northern Hemisphere will gradually lengthen, once again. For all the turmoil in our troubled world, Nature’s rhythms soothe.
Image: Jack Hunter