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Losing an hour of sleep

After reading the title of this post, don't mistake me for a health expert or a lifestyle coach who is going to lecture about the importance of sleep. I am also not going to explain how loosing an hour of sleep is going to impact your gut health, circadian rythm or your overall well being. 

Loosing an hour of sleep is an usual phenomenon experienced by those living in North America, parts of Asia, South America and Europe, once in an year though and at different time period for each country. Typically it happens around spring/ summer. Yes, I am referring to Daylight Saving Time (DST). For someone who is born in India like me, it never made sense to observe daylight saving time, until we moved to North America. In fact I hated DST, as my Onsite meetings mostly with my North American Clients and colleagues (while I was working at India), used to get delayed by an hour and run into my late evenings and nights.

For those who are new to this concept, Daylight saving time is the period, during which the clocks are moved an hour forward every year at the onset of spring, to enable us to utilize maximum daylight in a day. Similarly the clocks are set back by an hour at the beginning of the winter. DST doesn't actually create an extra hour of daylight for us. It just shifts the sun rise and sun set time with respect to our every day schedule, which is completely a human intervention. Benjamin Franklin in 1700s proposed to adjust the clock in correspondence to the time sun rises and sets, to maximize the utilization of sun light. In addition, he has also propagated that people can save lots of money on artificial illumination like candles which otherwise had to be burnt for one more hour. 

So how does this work in real-time? Let us assume in February it becomes darker by 6pm. By adopting  DST starting early March, the sun set shifts (per our clocks) by an hr later i.e., 7pm, thereby allowing us to have an additional hour to enjoy sunlight, spend more time outdoors, minimize energy spent to light up our homes. Again in early November the clocks will fall back an hour. It helps to have more sunlight in the mornings. Otherwise the outside here is pitch dark even around 8am. Moving the clock back becomes essential for a seamless routine, enabling smoother and safer commutation specially in the mornings.

And the whole thing doesn't seem to be as simple as adjusting our clock. The pain is real, right from loosing an hour of sleep, adjusting our everyday routine and to train your mind and body to the time change. I am fine with the "spring forward" which occurs every March, because we fairly notice the difference in the evenings when compared to "fall back". During fall back, the sun doesn't set until 9pm. Often times, we missed our dinner time, thinking it is just 5 or 6 in the evening. The difference is very prominent. Other pain point is enabling school going kids to adjust to their routine. Luckily for spring forward, they get March break of one whole week. But during winters, though they get additional one hour of sleep, there is definitely a disruption in their routine.

This change isn't something that isn't doable. All it takes is some deliberate effort to adopt to DST. We generally try to go to bed at least an hour earlier than usual on the day of DST, so that we wake up at the usual time, have a brunch, light snack and early dinner on Sunday, to set the rhythm for the next day, which is especially a Monday. During "fall back", we just do the opposite - have a slightly delayed dinner and call off the day a bit later than usual. If you are a sleepaholic, you can enjoy some extra sleep. How much ever we plan and execute, per my experience it takes at least a week to have a well oiled routine after the time change, twice a year.

Many health experts regard DST as harmful, as it results in behavioral, attention and learning issues in kids and youth, increased risk of accidents, increased health risks associated with heart, diabetes, blood pressure, and is said to cause psychological issues like depression, mood swings etc. In Canada, Yukon and Saskatchewan provinces have permanent DST. I know there has been a bill passed by Ontario government in 2020, to stay on DST instead of the traditional change of time twice every year. But it hasn't been implemented yet. But the change in only few provinces might not be of much help, especially when you are working with people across the globe or at different time zones.

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