• 31 May, 2023

How Daylight Saving Time Shifts Sunrises and Sunsets

How Daylight Saving Time Shifts Sunrises and Sunsets

Learn about the effects of daylight saving time on our circadian rhythms, how our bodies respond to light, and strategies to adjust to the time change.

On Sunday, March 12, 2023, the United States and several other countries will move their clocks forward one hour, marking the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST). While this may mean an extra hour of daylight in the evening for some, it also means losing an hour of precious morning light.

The concept of Daylight Saving Time dates back to the late 19th century, when Benjamin Franklin suggested that people could save candles by waking up earlier to take advantage of the sun's natural light. However, it wasn't until World War I that DST was officially implemented as a way to save energy by aligning waking hours with the hours of sunlight.

Today, DST is used in many countries around the world, although not all regions observe it. In the United States, DST begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. During this time, clocks are moved forward one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall.

While DST has its benefits, such as reducing energy consumption and increasing outdoor recreation time in the evenings, it also has its drawbacks. One of the most notable disadvantages is the loss of morning light, which can have negative effects on our health and well-being.

To understand how DST affects the timing of sunrises and sunsets, it's important to first understand how our planet's rotation and orbit around the sun work. The Earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours, which creates the cycle of day and night. However, the Earth's orbit around the sun is not perfectly circular, which means that the length of daylight varies depending on the time of year and location on the planet.

During the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is tilted towards the sun, which means that sunlight is more concentrated and lasts longer. This is why we experience longer days and shorter nights during the summer. Conversely, during the winter months, the Earth is tilted away from the sun, which means that sunlight is more diffuse and lasts for a shorter amount of time. This is why we experience shorter days and longer nights during the winter.

DST affects the timing of sunrises and sunsets by artificially shifting the hours of daylight. When we move our clocks forward one hour in the spring, we essentially "borrow" an hour of daylight from the morning and add it to the evening. This means that the sun rises and sets one hour later than it did the day before. Conversely, when we move our clocks back one hour in the fall, we "return" the borrowed hour of daylight to the morning, which means that the sun rises and sets one hour earlier than it did the day before.

For many people, losing an hour of morning light in the spring can be a difficult adjustment. This is because our bodies are naturally attuned to the cycles of daylight and darkness, and sudden changes in these cycles can disrupt our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms are our body's natural 24-hour clock, which helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycles, hormone levels, and other bodily functions. When our circadian rhythms are disrupted, we may experience symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

In addition to disrupting our circadian rhythms, losing morning light can also have other negative effects on our health and wellbeing. For example, research has shown that exposure to morning light can help to regulate our sleep-wake cycles, improve our mood, and increase our energy levels. When we lose this morning light, we may be more prone to sleep disturbances, depression, and fatigue.

So, how long will it take for us to recover the lost hour of morning light? The answer depends on several factors, including our location on the planet, the time of year, and the specific timing of DST. Generally speaking, it takes several ays or even weeks for our bodies to fully adjust to the shift in daylight hours.

To understand why it takes time to adjust to changes in daylight hours, it's helpful to know how our bodies respond to light. Light is a powerful signal to our brain that helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. Specifically, light exposure in the morning helps to reset our body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. Conversely, exposure to bright light in the evening can disrupt our sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

When we move our clocks forward in the spring, we lose an hour of morning light, which can disrupt our circadian rhythms and make it harder to wake up in the morning. This is especially true for people who are already prone to sleep disturbances, such as those with insomnia or sleep apnea. It may take several days or even weeks for our bodies to adjust to the new schedule, during which time we may experience symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

The exact amount of time it takes to adjust to DST depends on several factors, including our individual sleep patterns, age, and overall health. However, research suggests that it typically takes between two and seven days for our bodies to fully adjust to the shift in daylight hours.

One way to help our bodies adjust to DST more quickly is to gradually shift our sleep schedule in the days leading up to the time change. For example, if we normally wake up at 7:00 AM, we could gradually shift our wake-up time to 6:00 AM over the course of a few days before DST begins. This can help our bodies get used to waking up earlier, making the transition to DST less jarring.

Another way to help our bodies adjust to DST is to expose ourselves to bright light in the morning. This can help to reset our body's internal clock and promote wakefulness. Going for a walk outside in the morning or sitting near a window with bright sunlight can help to increase our exposure to morning light.

In addition to the physical effects of DST on our bodies, there are also economic and social implications to consider. For example, some businesses may be negatively impacted by the shift in daylight hours, especially those that rely on outdoor activities or tourism. Conversely, other businesses may benefit from the extra hour of daylight in the evening, such as restaurants and bars.

Overall, the shift in daylight hours caused by DST has both positive and negative effects on our lives. While it can be difficult to adjust to the loss of morning light in the spring, the extra hour of daylight in the evening can be beneficial for outdoor activities and socializing. By understanding how DST affects our bodies and taking steps to mitigate its negative effects, we can make the most of the changes in daylight hours and enjoy the benefits of longer, brighter days.