Between now and November 6th, you’ll probably be reminded a dozen times or more to set your clocks back an hour. Although, since a significant majority of us rely on internet connected clocks on our mobile phones, tablets, computers, and televisions, the reminders are probably obsolete. We know. We are indoctrinated into this practice as soon as we’re old enough to begin to grasp the concept of time. But, do we need to do it? Is the extra hour of sleep on November 6th worth the costs on individuals and the larger society?
While, for most people in the world whose governments have elected to shift clocks seasonally, it is just a minor inconvenience, for others, it can be far more extreme. In Russia, for example, where nearly the entire country is above the 49th parallel (the longitudinal northern border of the US) the topic of whether or not to shift clocks has been fiercely debated and has been the source of large-scale public demonstrations. In 2014, President Putin declared that Russia would no longer shift their clocks. For residents of Chita, Siberia, this was devastating news. They had been shifting their clocks two hours because of the change in sunlight.
But what about people who have no sunlight? In a former life, I served in the US Submarine Force. We would spend 90 days or more out to sea, submerged, in a world devoid of sunlight. Yet, as we traveled across time zones, we would adjust our shifts by an hour every day for several days. Imagine being jet lagged for a week! But there were even more jarring time shifts for us, as we would frequently be rotated from one shift to another to ensure proficiency in several jobs. And even more peculiar is that we operated on an 18 hour day. That is, the crew is divided into three shifts, but each shift was only six hours long.
We know that shifting our sleep schedule or working overnight shifts can have long lasting effects on people. Recent studies have led to the acknowledgment by medical professionals of a condition known as shift work disorder, and this is linked to all kinds of problems from ulcers to heart disease!
For most of us, the effect is a marginal annoyance. In some regions, though, the collective costs can be staggering. In Indiana, in 2006, it was determined that the spring shift cost the state $9 million in more energy use. This cost was attributed to increased air conditioning. Advocates for DST typically suggest that it is more energy efficient because of reduced demands for lighting. Other advocates for DST suggest that it means more light while people are driving, making roads safer. However, drowsy drivers have more accidents!
What do you think about DST? Is it still relevant in the age of extremely efficient lighting? Will the time shift affect your ability to focus on your job or your school work? Do you have any tips or tricks for how to make it easier? Share in the comments!