Daylight Savings Time (DST) has been something we’ve all experienced for as long as we can remember. In March we set our clocks forward an hour to begin the period known as Daylight Savings. In November, we set them back again by an hour, to end it. This setting of clocks behind or ahead affects millions of Americans and disrupts their sleep routines. If you’re a parent, you might especially notice the change in how it affects your children. Falling back does afford us an “extra” hour of sleep, but this doesn’t usually pertain to kids. This fact begs the question- are you ready to fall back?
History of daylight savings
DST came about during World War I. Germany observed it first in an attempt to conserve fuel with the added hour of daylight in the evening. Other nations of Europe decided to do the same, with the US beginning the practice in 1918. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson tried to establish a permanent Daylight Savings Time, with Congress repealing it but allowing states to adopt their own practice, if desired. The practice was widely discarded, but returned during World War II. Unlike the practice of today, however, the country observed it year-round. There was no end to it as there is now, in the fall. So, many didn’t have to worry about being ready to ‘fall back’ while planning their upcoming Thanksgiving meals.
In 1966, the twice-yearly practice of changing the clocks, marking the beginning and the end of daylight savings was adopted. Congress tried to return to the year-round observance in 1974, but by year’s end, the bi-annual switching of the clocks became the status quo. In 2007, the only change made was the start and end times, creating a longer observance period for daylight savings.
DST disrupts the circadian rhythm
‘Circadian rhythm’ is a term Science uses to describe the body’s internal clock. It is how our body regulates many functions, including our sleep. The sun plays an intricate role in keeping our circadian rhythm balanced. Our social clocks also play a role. What time we wake, what we do when we wake, how we spend our day, and what time we go to sleep all are part of what makes up our circadian rhythm. When we’re sick, or miss sleep, or are over-stimulated too late into the night- all of these things make adjustments to our internal clock, and often, we suffer for it.
Getting the children ready to fall back
Many people grumble about the spring beginning of daylight savings, when we all lose an hour of sleep by setting our clocks forward by an hour. The often-elusive eight-hours seems more than impossible at that point, especially if you have children. Parents all over the country try to gear up for this time by getting their kids to bed early beginning a week before hand, but that doesn’t always pan out well. Some of us get excited about the idea of an “extra” hour in the fall, and feel more than ready to fall back. But then we remember: we have kids.
Changes in the circadian rhythm severely affect children. Many kids take weeks to recover from a change in sleep/wake times. This is true even during the fall when they’re supposed to be getting extra sleep. Some spend months after daylight savings time begins, and then again after it ends, readjusting to their new schedules. Behavior control suffers as well.
Parents can try to ease their children into the changes by doing several of the following: Taking into account their exposure to light and dark, especially the sun and its natural cycle. Dimming lights in the home, and making sure they are bright in the morning, will also help some. Adults can also find these practices helpful in order to feel ready to fall back come November 5th.