Together we can abolish Daylight Savings Time

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again”

-From the lyrics for Time, performed by Pink Floyd

 

It’s that time of year again. Here in the US we will be adjusting our clocks back one hour on Sunday, and Tuesday we will be voting in local and national elections. As the two events coincide I thought it would be a good opportunity to briefly examine the subject from a preventive health perspective, as it will clearly take action by our state or federal governments to end this confusing and arguably unhealthy practice.

Utah ponders, Russia acts

It is difficult for me to imagine having much in common with the people of Utah, a deeply conservative and religious state, yet recently there have been efforts underway by lawmakers there to permanently end DST based on a study that showed support from the citizens. Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only US states not participating in DST. Russia, like Utah, is another part of the world I ordinarily would not expect to lead the way, but the recent time change there will be the last for that country since it has decided to permanently end DST. It is difficult to imagine such a bold decision happening here in the US anytime soon given the current paralysis within the congress resulting partly from a flood of money into politics following recent Supreme Court decisions. Ridding the country of this practice will likely happen state by state just as we currently see with the legalizations of gay marriage, recreational cannabis, and possibly genetically engineered food labeling. Proponents from all three movements adopted a state by state strategy after realizing that a stagnant congress was unlikely to make any progress in the near future.

Why abolish DST?

Reasons for ending or maintaining the practice vary far and wide, from people wanting more light at the beginning or ending of their days, to businesses afraid of losing money, to researchers debating over whether the practice saves energy. Despite the diversity of opinion and scientific study results, there is one reason we should all be able to agree on; changing the clocks twice per year is quite simply annoying. Why do we do it? Does anybody really know? Who’s steering this ship anyway? For a nation full of sick, stressed and under rested people to go through this process twice per year makes little sense. We need all the help we can get and having to suddenly adjust our sleep schedules this way is just one more hassle, like the morning commute to work, in a long list of stresses that we deal with.

The natural perspective

The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”, and in the case of DST this theme is very applicable. You may argue that adjusting your sleep schedule is not that difficult, but as our lifestyles move further and further from traditional ways, the health problems begin to accumulate. They may be subtle at first, or perhaps you can’t even link the symptoms to the cause, but the effects are cumulative, and the more we can do to offset these causes the better we will be. Electricity, lighting, and clocks are all wonderful tools that allow us to live however we want, whenever we want, but in doing so we lose touch with the rise and fall of the sun and other natural rhythms of earth. A perfect example of this is the night shift worker who labors at the time when they should be sleeping. Even worse is the worker whose shift frequently alternates between night and day. Ask yourself when do you eat, or when do you sleep, and whether the timing of these activities is helping or hurting your health. One small habit I have begun recently is to try and dim the lights towards the beginning and end of my day. You can imagine how dramatic a transition it must be for our body to be exposed to hundreds of watts of light one moment and then lying in complete darkness the next, or the opposite when you awake. In addition, I find it helpful to abstain from the stimulation of internet or movies as close to bedtime as possible.

 

Photo by roy2k.com

Photo by roy2k.com

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”

-From the lyrics for Eclipse, performed by Pink Floyd

A healthy democracy

Remember as you change your clocks tomorrow and drop you ballot in the box Tuesday that a vote for Sattvic Planet is a vote for better health. If you choose me as your preventive medicine representative I promise to always place the health of people and planet ahead of profit and politics. Say NO to DST, say YES to good sleep!

 

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Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

 

 

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Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

TheFertileDesert-playa-starsIt’s that time of year again, and if you have anything in common with me, it is a time that you are not very excited about. Tomorrow, we as a nation will change our clocks one hour forward, unless you are one of the people having the good fortune of living in Arizona or Hawaii. For me that means waking at my normal time of around 6 and then realizing that it is actually 7, one less hour in my day until my normal 10 pm bedtime. On Monday I will wake at 6 which only two days ago would have been 5, and instead of watching the sky brighten during that first hour I will be in darkness almost until I arrive at the office. It’s likely that I will feel groggy Monday due to possible sleep problems, or due to the unfamiliar dark mornings. I’m not writing this to share my complaints with the world, I’m writing this as I always do, to make the connection between the way we live and the quality of health that we experience.

Why do we do it? There is no sense in me explaining the history behind daylight savings time since there are already many well-written articles available. For example, National Geographic recently published an article that explains the controversy behind this semi-annual ritual, and the Los Angeles Times has done the same. In summary, we do it because it is thought to reduce electricity consumption and give us more outdoor time in the evenings. I am an absolute advocate of saving energy and enjoying free time, but I don’t think it is a good idea to be adding more stress to an already overworked and under rested nation, and as the articles show there are many health professionals who would agree.

Daylight savings time is really quite symbolic of our need as a culture to control nature. How bold we are to think that we can manipulate the rise and fall of the sun. This reminds me of a book I am currently reading called The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka practiced what he called natural farming in Japan during the later half of the 1900s. He grew rice and oranges with no inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, or diesel fuel. He strongly advocated an observational approach to agriculture with as little interference as possible, and practiced this to the extent that plowing the soil was strictly forbidden on his farm. The results of implementing his philosophy were that the yields of his harvests rivaled and even exceeded any farmer in perhaps all of Japan at the time. At one section of the book Fukuoka states that if a single bud is snipped off an orange tree that may bring about disorder that cannot be undone. He states that pruning fruit trees is often done to make it easier to harvest fruit, and to combat the onset of insect and plant disease. However, according to Fukuoka, based on years of observation and trial and error, the reason we have insect and plant disease is because we pruned in the first place. We are caught in a cycle where we prune to make the fruit more accessible, but that pruning causes pests and disease, so we prune and spray chemicals to reduce the pests and disease. In other words, it all begins with the need to try and control how the fruit tree naturally grows; yet the tree already knows how to grow without our assistance. The tree will send branches towards the light, not toward our fruit baskets. We would be better off getting taller ladders, or maybe leaving the upper fruit for the birds to eat.

In Ayurveda it is important to observe the constantly changing cycles and adjust our lifestyles accordingly. We would never wear shorts in Minnesota during winter, or wear a down jacket in New Mexico during summer, yet we don’t think twice about eating cold raw salads with ingredients imported from the southern hemisphere during winter, or eating processed food from cans, boxes and bags during the abundance of summer harvest. Though you may not have ever thought about it before, the time of day, the season of the year, and the stage of your life all influence your health in some way. For further details on this concept, and to understand why I chose the header image for this website, see my first post Meaning of the Sattvic Planet image. Masanobu Fukuoka observed that snipping a single bud from his orange tree could cause disorder that cannot be undone, and I see parallels of this to the changing of our clocks. It’s time to observe, and loosen our controlling grip on nature, or as the Beatles said, “Let it be”.