Springing Ahead Into Daylight Saving Time Is Not Without Its Pitfalls

Americans owe a lot to Founding Father Ben Franklin. His political writings were the laboratory in which the idea for an American nation was created, and his role as a diplomat to the Court of King Louis VI garnered the French support that helped turn that idea into a reality.

But this Sunday, when you set your clocks ahead, say a special “thank you” to Mr. Franklin, because it was he who first conceived of the notion of saving daylight. Franklin, whose love of frugality was legendary, first came up with the idea while he was in France. After attending a demonstration of a new oil lamp, he wrote an essay called An Economic Project in which he outlined how the amount of oil used by the lamp in relation to the amount of light it produced led him to figure out that maybe instead of using expensive artificial light, we should be using natural light. However, the idea didn’t take hold in the U.S. until 134 years later when Congress passed the legislation known as An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States on March 19, 1918.

This year marks another milestone in the history of preserving daylight. Because of another act of Congress, Americans will now begin Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, which is three weeks earlier than in the past. That adds a few extra weeks to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face a little longer each evening and the weight of all that cash in your pocket from not using electric lights.

But before you get too euphoric, keep in mind that while the idea to extend the use of natural light to illuminate our homes and businesses may seem incredibly obvious, the execution isn’t. Moving the clocks ahead is actually harder on the sleep cycle than turning them back. That’s because our natural sleep rhythm is designed to move forward in a linear direction, sleep a little later and get up a little later each day. Setting the clocks ahead brings that movement to a screeching halt and causes it to go in the opposite direction by forcing us to get up an hour earlier. However, most of us find that our biological clocks reset within a day or two.

For those of you who may need to nudge their internal clocks a little, Dr. Maha Alattar, Assistant Professor of Neurology at theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, offers the following advice:

— Don't resort to medications just to adjust to daylight-saving time; this is a transitory period and most people adjust within a few days.
— Wake up at your regular time, according to the clock. Even though 6 a.m. will be 7 a.m., stay on your schedule.
— Don't drink caffeine after 10 a.m. or lunchtime.
— Don't take a nap, work through the sluggishness until bedtime.
— Avoid a heavy meal three hours before bed.
— End your exercise routine at least three to four hours before bedtime.
— Take a warm shower or bath before bed.
— Get a dose of sunshine in the morning to quickly reset circadian rhythms. Sunlight is most the powerful regulator.

It’s also important to get that extra splash of sunlight to be sure that your Vitamin D levels are where they should be. As your biological clock changes, your body may temporarily lower the amount of Vitamin D it produces. Since the body uses the UV light of the sun to produce this vitamin, that extra does of UV will help your body keep up its productivity.

Also keep in mind that during the transition period, you may feel somewhat groggy during the day while your brain is recovering from the shock of the change. You may also experience drowsiness, especially when driving. If you:

— Have difficulty focusing and are frequently blinking
— Daydream and can’t remember the last few miles you’ve driven
— Keep nodding your head
— Repeatedly yawn or rub your eyes
— Drift out of your lane, tailgate or hit shoulder rumble strips

Pull over at the next exit or rest area and take a 20-minute nap. Drink a cup of coffee or eat a caffeinated snack. It will take 30 minutes for the caffeine to enter your bloodstream. Never drink alcohol or take medication to keep awake when you are behind the wheel.

The human machinery isn’t the only equipment that is affected by Daylight Saving Time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that the early start to daylight saving may trigger malfunctions with medical devices used by individuals as well as hospital equipment linked to computer networks.

No one knows what specific equipment may fail to operate properly. The FDA says that its major concern is equipment that operates in tandem with or interacts with other networked devices, e.g. where a synchronization of clocks may be necessary.

Hospitals are being advised to check devices and software programs as soon as possible after 2 a.m. on four dates:

— March 11th, the new start of daylight savings;
— April 1st, the old start date;
— October 28th; the date daylight saving time used to end,
— November 4th, the new end date.

The agency is also recommending that individuals check their medical devices to see if they use or display time. If they do, contact the device's manufacturer to see if a patch is necessary to update the software.

Daylight Saving Time may have been a simple adjustment in the world in which Ben Franklin lived; but in the always-on-the-go, techno-world of the 21st Century, it’s quite another matter. So, grit your teeth and gird your loins, Daylight Saving Time is coming, ready or not. But most of all, never forget to use that extra time to smell the roses and kiss the kids.