On Sunday, November 5, you should wake feeling slight better rested than usual as you’ll have gained an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time. Messing with our bedside clocks (not to mention our internal clocks) may seem like a strange thing to do, but there is actually a pretty good reason.
Why do we change our clocks an hour back?
To understand why we move our clocks forward and back in the spring and fall we need to understand why we have seasons in the first place. You see, the Earth does not stand perfectly straight as it rotates around the Sun. Rather, it rotates at a tilt. This means that the part of our planet that’s tilted toward the sun has warmer, lighter days for half of the year and colder, then darker days for the other half, as the earth makes its full, year-long rotation.
Most of us live for those warm, summer days, when our part of the world is tilted toward the Sun. Those days – and Benjamin Franklin – are the reason for daylight savings time. Franklin was the first to publicly observe that most of the world was sleeping through those glorious, bright, warm, early morning summer hours, essentially wasting them. A British builder named William Willet was the next to push for a shift in time, in an effort to push the bright sunny summer hours from morning to evening, when people could actually enjoy them rather than sleep through them. Willet proposed shifting the time gradually, say 20 minutes a Sunday for 4 consecutive weeks. His plan was adopted first by Germany, then by Britain, who called the program Sun Time. Other countries followed suit, including the U.S. in 1918.
Tips & Tricks for getting and keeping you kids in bed
And yes, daylight savings time gives us nice, long, summer hours. And yes, research indicates that it also saves energy (more time playing at the park in the evening means fewer lights on and dishwashers running) and decreases evening traffic accidents. But, for those of us with kids, daylight savings time can be brutal. Have you ever tried to put your kids down for the night while the sun was still shining bright? Or to wake them up an hour early in the morning? Good luck!
But there is hope. Willet actually had the right idea, in terms of gradually introducing this change. Beginning about a week before the time changes this fall, start pushing bed time by about 15 minutes each day (your kids are going to love this!). Then, try to keep them in bed an hour later on Saturday and until the equivalent of their regular wake up time on Sunday. The goal is that they’ll be just tired enough by Sunday night to go to bed at their regular, but now adjusted time. As always, avoid electronics, sugar, and crazy, active play in the hour before they climb into bed.
Ah, daylight savings time. We relish that extra hour of sleep in the fall and loathe the loss of an hour in the spring, but, to quote Danny Zuko, “Oh, those summer nights!”