Rural Rant: Let’s Stay on Daylight Saving Time Year-Round

Today’s topic was chosen by the calendar. Like I do every spring and every fall, I found myself thinking, why do we screw up our clocks and schedules and bodies and metabolisms and circadian rhythms and melatonin levels twice a year by artificially messing with time?

I understand Daylight Saving Time and I think it’s great. Here in the mid-northern latitudes, we appreciate sunshine.

In the summer when it’s light out ridiculously early, it makes perfect sense to shift one of those light-filled hours to later in the day. Of course, in the real North it’s light out all the time in summer. Lots of Far Northern communities stay on Standard Time in summer because, seriously, is sunset at 3am better than sunset at 2am? Not unless you’re a major party animal.

But for Ottawa there are clear advantages to shifting dawn from 4am to 5am. Except for that first horrible 23-hour Sunday, followed by a sleep-deprived Monday, having another hour of daylight in the evening is really great. (Geek fact: due to sleep deprivation, accidents and heart attacks are significantly higher the Monday after the clocks spring forward.)

So why is it that just when the days start getting depressingly short, we chop off an hour of sunlight?

Yes, I know it’s not gone—it’s just shifted to morning. And getting out of bed is easier—for about a week. But in November we’re losing light so fast that a few days later we’re back to getting up in the dark.

And yes, I’ve heard the argument that it’s better for farmers and construction workers to have light to start earlier. Well, my dad and brothers farm and my husband worked in construction. Quote from Dad: “I hate changing to Standard Time. I feel like I’ve lost an hour.”

Why not let farmers and construction workers start a bit later in the winter? Especially since it’s also the slowest season for those industries? No one has ever said: “I love starting hard physical work outside in the bitter cold at 7am.”

I bet a lot of construction workers would like to sleep a little longer on winter mornings. And how many of us would enjoy having a bit of light left after work to do a couple of jobs outside? Imagine coming home in daylight in November and having time to rake the yard or go for a walk with the kids before darkness descends.

So let’s stop the crazy practice of giving ourselves jet lag twice a year (with no compensating trip). Let’s prevent accidents, avoid messing up appointments, and stop depressing ourselves even further.

Let’s stop using Standard Time completely. Let’s stay on Daylight Saving Time year-round. The key word is saving. It would save us all a lot of trouble, expense and confusion, and it would help postpone the winter blues.

Speaking of those blues, what about the people who get Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) from lack of daylight in the winter? It’s true that natural light entering the eyes early in the day helps reduce symptoms. But during midwinter, most people nowadays go to work and come home in the dark. It helps a lot to go outside for half an hour after the sun comes up. In many workplaces, having a meeting or coffee break outdoors or in a sunny room is quite advisable.

Maybe it’s time to be less like slaves to the clock and instead follow our bodies’ natural rhythms. Minor shifts in behaviour—keeping Daylight Saving Time and going outside briefly each morning—could make a big difference in how we feel about the coming of winter.

It’s time to change changing times!