First let’s clear up the origin of Daylight Saving Time (DST). I’d thought it was tied to farming, but it turns out it has more to do with whales! In 1916, DST was implemented in Germany & Austria to save lamp oil during World War I (lamp oil was derived from whale fat). Much later, DST was more widely embraced due to the 1970s energy crisis. Nowadays, DST boosts the economy by encouraging spending during brighter evenings (but, from a whale’s perspective, that’s small potatoes compared to global warming).
Pushing your day forward one measly hour seems like it should be no big deal. But, believe me, it’s a big deal! Human bodies prize routine, balance and schedules– not calendar schedules, circadian rhythm! Our physiology hasn’t given up its highly responsive adherence to light just because clock alarms and light bulbs were invented. When it’s dark in the morning, our bodies have trouble getting going.
Despite the consoling news that our bodies can adjust to the time change in a few days, DST has some potential health consequences…
- The adjustment to DST can aggravate sleep deprivation, which is a problem most Americans already have. Sleep deprivation increases stress & inflammation, reduces blood sugar control, inhibits clear thinking and encourages impulsivity… plus, the brain detoxifies during sleep!
- Traffic and machine accidents will increase the Monday after the clocks roll forward (surely from sleep deprivation).
- There’s a measurable spike in heart attacks in the weeks following daylight saving time. (Why? …no one knows, but it might be a version of “straw that broke the camel’s back”)
- Productivity decreases due to “cyberloafing”: internet searches for entertainment increase by 3.1% on the Monday after DST versus the Monday before.
What is the huge benefit to DST? DQT… Daylight Quality Time!
When it’s light outside, it’s easier to skip the TV and go walk in a park. It’s enticing to go have a picnic, play ball with your kids, toss a frisbee with your dog, go to events in your community (like a work party at a local farm).
What can you do to manage the transition to DST?
- Hop into bed 20-30 minutes earlier on Saturday night (DST starts at 2am Sunday).
- Limit caffeine intake and/or stop drinking it at lunchtime for a few days.
- Eat enough protein & veggies, drink plenty of water and avoid sugar. This provides enough energy, vitamins and minerals to cope with the stress of the DST change (and life in general) + sends a signal to the body that it’s well-nourished and doesn’t need to stress out about finding food. Decreasing stress goes a long way towards encouraging sleep.
- Take a cat nap during the day if you need it (you have a hammock under your desk at work, right?)
- Change all your digital clocks to avoid missing appointments. Stress is the worst!
- Consider light therapy. Light boxes are easy to find though they vary in quality. Personally, I love the Re-Timer glasses (re-timer.com).
Coffee and DST
Many people use coffee to wake up in the morning or stay perky throughout the day. Unfortunately, heavy use of caffeine can progress to dependence, which can disrupt the body’s sleep schedule and hormonal balance. The effects can be worse for those whose genetics make them very sensitive to caffeine. Here are some things to think about:
- Lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts.
- “One cup of coffee” can range anywhere from 30–700 ml (1–24 oz), greatly affecting the total caffeine content.
- Instant coffee has less caffeine than regular coffee (8-oz cup has 30–60mg & 70-140mg, respectively)… but instant coffee doesn’t cut it for coffee connoisseurs. Espresso (1–1.75 oz) contains about 63 mg of caffeine. The average cup of decaf contains 3mg of caffeine.
- Adding fat to coffee sounds weird, but is actually hip, delicious and can help the body metabolize caffeine more slowly.
- Watch out for “coffee drinks”, a la Starbuck’s, with added milk and sugar, which can add up calorie-wise.
- If you make coffee at home, here are some ways to use your spent coffee grounds!