Change Your Clocks — It's Time To Spring Forward!

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Sunday, March 13 marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States. On this day, most Americans will move their clocks forward by an hour. This simple action allows residents to enjoy more daylight during the upcoming spring and summer months.

Manipulating the clocks to take advantage of longer days was first proposed in 1784, by American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin. In 1895, George Vernon Hudson a New Zealand entomologist and astronomer suggested that the clocks be moved by two hours every spring and winter. His motivation was driven by his desire to have more daylight hours to devote to his favorite hobby — Collecting and examining insects! However, the idea did not start receiving serious consideration until 1907, when British resident William Willett presented it as a way to save energy.

On April 30, 1916, Germany became the first country to enact DST. Britain followed shortly after. Though the United States also implemented the time change, it was just for a few years to provide World War 1 soldiers more daylight hours for combat. The law was repealed at the end of the war only to be reinstated (and reversed) during World War II.

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In April 1966, DST finally became a permanent fixture on the American calendar. US officials passed the law to help conserve energy and give farmers more daylight hours to transport fresh produce to markets. However, since the regulation was optional, Hawaii, American Samoa, and most of Arizona, decided to opt out.

Today many countries around the world observe DST. While most continue to change the clocks at the end of March or even April, Americans have altered the dates when DST begins and ends, several times. In 1986, former US President Ronald Reagan moved the DST start date from the last weekend of April to the first. In 2005, George W. Bush, not only moved up the 'spring forward' date to the second Sunday in March, but also extended the 'fall back' time out an additional week in November.

These changes have reduced the dark and cold winter months by about five weeks, at least according to the clocks. However, for many Americans, this is not enough. They want the time change to be repealed altogether! In 2015 lawmakers in Idaho, New Mexico and Alaska introduced bills to get DST abolished. They claimed that it was disruptive to both businesses and individuals. However, none of the proposals received the approval of the respective state legislators.

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While this may appear to a lot of hoopla over the loss of an hour, many scientists believe it has a severe impact on the health of some people. A 2012 study conducted by Christopher Barnes an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found a 10% increase in heart attacks, in the two days following the start of DST.

More recently, Finland's Dr. Jori Ruuskanen discovered that the overall rate of strokes also increased by 8% during those days. According to the study, cancer patients (stroke rates up by 25%) and people over 65 (stroke rates up by 20%) were the most affected. The University of Turku researcher and his team will present their findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology that will be held in Vancouver, this April. They also plan to investigate other detrimental health effects that could be attributed to the loss of the hour. Fortunately, there does not seem to be any dire effects during 'fall back' when an extra hour is added to the day.

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But until these researchers can convince legislators, we have to learn how to survive the dreaded hour loss. Experts say that waking up an hour or two earlier a few days before Sunday, helps the body get acclimatized to the time change faster. They also recommend getting out in the sunshine on Sunday, so that the body can adjust to the longer days that follow. Of course, going to bed an hour earlier on Saturday night will not hurt either! But before you do, don't forget to change those clocks!

Happy Spring Forward!


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