The second Sunday of March is almost here, which means it’s time to “spring forward”: Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 8th, when clocks move forward an hour.
Whether you call it “Daylight Savings” or “summer time” or “cottage time”, the good news is that the time switch means we’ll have more daylight in the evening hours (the sun will set at 7:11 p.m. on Sunday night). The bad news is that we all lose an hour of sleep.
If you still have any manual clocks, remember to set them forward an hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.
The time change is also when you should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and also check whether the devices need to be replaced (if they are more than 10 years old, they probably do).
Who invented DST and why?
Although it’s commonly believed Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea for DST, it was actually New Zealand entomologist George Hudson.
In 1895, Hudson proposed a two-hour shift in the clocks (he wanted more daylight to collect insects).
“The effect of this alteration would be to advance all the day’s operations in summer two hours compared with the present system,” Hudson wrote in 1898, explaining his original proposal. “In this way the early-morning daylight would be utilised, and a long period of daylight leisure would be made available in the evening for cricket, gardening, cycling, or any other outdoor pursuit desired.”
A few years later, English outdoorsman William Willett also proposed advancing the clocks during the summer months (he wanted more daylight to golf).
The first governments to implement DST were Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916, as a way to conserve coal during World War I. Britain and most other European countries adopted it shortly after, with the United States and Canada adopting it in 1918.
DST used to end on the last Sunday of October (and begin on the first Sunday of April) but, in 2007, the U.S. decided to change it to the first Sunday of November (and the second Sunday in March) in an attempt to conserve energy.
To avoid issues with economic and social interaction with the U.S., the Canadian provinces that observe DST followed suit.
What are the health effects of DST?
While the evidence is mixed, some research has found “springing forward” increases the risk of heart attacks and traffic accidents.
Losing an hour of sleep in the spring can affect both your cognitive ability and your physical health, especially if you aren’t getting enough sleep to begin with.
That’s because moving clocks forward changes our exposure to daylight and affects our circadian rhythm (the body’s natural internal clock).
It can take up to a week to adjust your internal clock to the shift in daylight hours, so here are some suggestions for how you and your family can adapt more quickly to the coming time change:
- Each morning leading up to Sunday, try waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal.
- Also try going to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal each night. You can help prepare your body for an earlier bedtime by not eating two hours before you go to sleep, and put down your devices an hour before bed.
- Eat a healthy breakfast when you first wake up, as food is one way to tell your body it’s the beginning of the day.
- After the time change, expose yourself to daylight during waking hours as much as possible.
- Reduce your use of caffeine and alcohol during the day and increase your physical activity.