Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 3, 2014

TIDBITS: The trouble with springing forward

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — This weekend, we will dutifully spring forward at 2 a.m. Sunday morning and begin daylight saving time.

But even though we can all go about resetting our individual clocks, and most phones will make the spring forward for us, there is, sadly, no way to get your internal clock to make the leap forward. The transition can cause all sorts of disturbances, from the mildly annoying to the dangerous.

Studies have found there are more heart attacks during the first three weekdays following the spring forward. In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine attributed the small surge, about five percent, to changes in sleep patterns. Those changes can cause the body to release stress hormones that increase inflammation and cause more severe complications in people already at risk for heart attacks.

People also show up to work sleepy, and that could increase workplace injuries. A 2009 Journal of Applied Psychology found mine workers experienced 5.7 percent more workplace injuries in the week following the spring forward transition than during any other days of the year. The study found workers had about 40 minutes less sleep and those injuries were attributable to lack of sleep.

There are also reported increases in cluster headaches caused by throwing off the body’s circadian rhythms. Have you ever had a cluster headache? These extremely painful episodes cluster to one side of a person’s head and cause excruciating pain for days or weeks at a time. They usually repeat about the same time of day for several days in a row.

For me, I’m going to not like the sky still being dark when my alarm goes off in the morning. I need some sunshine to help my body know it’s time to rise and shine. That’s the shine part, and it is apparently non-negotiable to my internal clock.

That means I wake up late so my morning is rushed more than usual. My dog doesn’t get as long of a walk. My hair may not get styled. I will probably not have time to make my breakfast, so I end up grabbing a less-than-healthy breakfast biscuit, completely de-railing my attempts at a better diet. And, I end up late for work, throwing off my whole day. When I get home, I can’t go to sleep at my normal time because it doesn’t feel like my normal time. I end up staying up later and repeating this vicious cycle again and again for about a week.

I don’t really have this problem in the fall. Or, at least, it’s not as bad. There is a little adjustment, and I tend to fall asleep at 8 p.m., but I wake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.

But are these reasons enough to cause the state to completely ditch the time changes?

Tennessee Representative Curry Todd, from Collierville, wants to no longer spring forward and fall back. If approved, this bill would take effect in July and there would be no fall back in November.

Todd told the Knoxville News Sentinel the move would be beneficial for farmers and school children with an hour of sunlight.

There are states that do not recognize daylight saving time — Arizona and Hawaii. The practice came about first in 1895. Germany and Austria-Hungary stated observing it in 1916. The U.S. used it during World War I to conserve fuel and the practice gained wide-spread use around the world during the energy crisis of the 1970s. In 2005, the U.S. extended daylight saving time by four weeks.

How does daylight saving time provide energy savings? The idea is that it would reduce evening use of lighting, heating and cooling systems, all of which use energy. But, its effectiveness is questioned, with ongoing debates on wether DST still saves energy or not.

As much as I loathe springing forward, I don’t think the confusion this bill would cause is worth it. This is especially true for those living near the line for Eastern and Central time zones. If you live in, say, Chattanooga, you’re living on Eastern time, like Georgia. But you’re right there with Alabama on Central time. Imagine getting folks together for lunch with three different time zones to figure out. I have trouble remembering to adjust my travel times for fast time when going to Knoxville. I don’t want to think about trying to plan a trip to eastern Kentucky under this proposed system. I suspect my trip planner would short circuit trying to get all the times right.

So instead of bending time to our will, how about we all take a few preventative steps to ease the transition to daylight saving time.

WebMD offers tips to get your internal clock ticking better after the time change.

First, get outside during daylight hours. Light suppresses melatonin, which produces sleep. When you’re getting ready to wind down and catch some zzz’s, avoid bright light. If you get up at night to get a drink of water or go to the bathroom, try not to turn on the lights because it can confuse your internal light.

Good sleep hygiene also helps reduce the upsetting effects of daylight saving time, and can help you get better sleep all year long. Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Don’t exercise right before bedtime. Create rituals that help to calm you before heading off to bed and gradually relax your body. Use ear plugs and eye masks. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day to develop a sleep pattern.

Sleep well, and take care when you get up and about next Monday morning. It shouldn’t take more than a few days to adjust to the change.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.