In the wee hours of this morning, the time changed from Daylight Saving Time to standard time. Are you okay? Still sane? Or has this annual event thrown your circadian rhythm out of whack out of whack so badly that you may never recover?
I’m going out on a limb here—way out. I like time changes. This year Daylight Savings time began on March 12, shifting the clock to provide an extra hour of light in the evening and ended today, with the shift providing an extra hour of light in the morning. I have lived most of my life in the northern latitudes where, once DST ends and we change to standard time, it starts getting dark before 5:00, with nightfall earlier each day as we inch toward the winter solstice.
I like that. I like falling back (and the extra hour of sleep once a year) and also, for entirely different reasons, I appreciate springing forward on the night DST begins (even though I lose an hour of sleep that night), because it is the harbinger of summer evenings when it will be light until close to 10:00.
Perhaps because I come from stoic Swedish stock, I don’t recall anyone in my family or our friends complaining about DST in my youth—it’s just something that happened, sometimes producing humorous situations such as the people who showed up for Easter Sunday services two hours late one year when the change to DST happened to fall on Easter; they turned their clocks back an hour instead of ahead. It’s spring forward and fall back, people!
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a marked spike compared to previous years in the number of people complaining about DST and the inconvenience of twice-per-year hourly shifts. The complaints haven’t been just about inconvenience or because someone forgot and was an hour early for a meeting or for church—for the first time I learned that for some people the spring and fall time changes are among the most disruptive events of the year.
After reading one person proclaim that “DST is total bullshit” and another post that “It’s the twice-yearly jet lag and sleep disruption that is so hateful,” I thought that perhaps a voice of reason needed to inserted into the discussion. Minor sleep disruption, yes (although one extra hour of sleep is hardly disruptive), but jet lag? Hateful? What, do you get jet lag flying from New York to Chicago? Please. So I innocently posted “To be honest, I’ve never understood how a mere one hour difference can be such a source of disruption, dismay, and angst for so many people.” Boy, was that a mistake.
In short order I was informed that if I was not “physically afflicted” by the time change, I was not only lucky but also was “very rare.” Now I have no problem with being very rare (back in the days when I ate beef, that’s how I ordered my steak), but in this case I got the impression I was being called “very rare” as in “mutant” or “non-human.” I responded that I have an extensive network of family and friends (a bit of an exaggeration) and knew of only two who claimed to be bothered in any way by one-hour time changes, to which I received “Whereas I have only a couple who claim they don’t.” One of us is clearly full of shit—and it was on.
Last Thursday morning, seeking current information on the time change crisis, I posted the following on my Facebook feed: A quick informal poll for my Facebook acquaintances–how many of you suffer from sleep deprivation, jet lag-like symptoms, or other such maladies because of the twice per year time changes? I don’t, but from what I read and hear many people do. How about you?
I’ve done this before. And as has been the case every time I ask, about 45 or 50 acquaintances split right down the middle. There are those like me, who not only suffer no negative effects from DST changes but also suspect that those who do are exaggerating, suffering from psychosomatic symptoms, or just like to whine. Most in this category simply say “No” or “not a problem.” My brother, who is a recently retired medical doctor and takes these things seriously, wrote “Not even remotely an issue for me. One hour should never make any sleep difference, excepting medical sleep disorders; you have to cross 3-4 time zones before jet lag is even an issue!”
Then there is the other half who not only suffer various symptoms from DST changes but who also get quite defensive when someone reveals that this is not a universal affliction. These folks note that DST is bad both for internal clocks, cancer, heart attacks, and that automobile accidents increase in the week after the time change. One person wrote that “some people have small children and dogs,” implying that insensitive persons such as I should have some sympathy for persons such as she who have a houseful of DST-sufferers of various species (I wonder about how fish or turtles would do in her house). I probably did not help by responding “Of course—I have had two small children and multiple dogs, none of whom were ever affected.”
I’m sure that most everyone has had such conversations about DST as well as other issues that sharply divide human beings from one another, from politics to food preferences. For instance, a guy on Facebook recently was pissed at people piling on with negative comments about fruitcake. Apparently fruitcake is one of his most pleasant childhood holiday memories, and people such as I promulgating negative stereotypes about fruitcake are shitting on his youth. Facebook is wonderful for generating such intractable and endless arguments, because often the people communicating have never met and know nothing about each other beyond the sound bites and bumper sticker pronouncements that are the heart and soul of social media.
There is a greater truth in play here—each of us is driven by the default assumption that our preferences, tastes, and experiences are the default setting for human normality. To slightly paraphrase Protagoras, each of us believes that “I am the measure of all things.” Other human beings are normal to the extent that they appreciate what I like and reject what I dislike. Hence the need for real human interaction rather than colliding sound bites—there is no better corrective to “I am the measure of all things” than to find out on a regular basis that one person’s absolute is another person’s “whatever” and that my “no brainer” and “go to” in any area of experience whatsoever is something that has never even risen to the next person’s “Top 1000” things in importance.
Although I do not suffer from DST-related symptoms and do not understand those who do, I admit that one thing about DST has become more difficult in my adulthood than when I was a child—adjusting the clocks. Digital time pieces are far more challenging to move forward or back an hour than good old non-digital watches and clocks. I still puzzle for several minutes twice per year trying to remember how to change the time on the microwave and stove, and forget about the Bose machine. We have two Bose machines, and they tell time accurately six months of the year—the rest of the time they are an hour fast.