Feeling wound up? Run down? It's DST

April 07, 1997|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,SUN STAFF

Tired and cranky? Did you have to blast the kids out of bed HTC this morning? Sleep experts say you can blame the arrival of Daylight-Saving Time, our annual form of stay-at-home jet lag.

If you thought sleeping later on Sunday would carry you through the time change, well, wrong, according to internist Thomas Hobbins, director of the Maryland Sleep Disorders Center in Towson. Losing an hour of sleep is no small matter, especially after the weekend has already tinkered with your sleep habits.

"Many people always have trouble on Monday mornings because they've stayed up late and slept late for the past two or three days," Hobbins says. "If there's also a time change, these people are in big trouble."

Particularly if they're on the freeway. In a Canadian study reported last year, psychologist Stanley Coren found an 8 percent increase in the number of traffic accidents on the Monday after Daylight-Saving Time began. Similarly, there was a decrease in accidents on the Monday following the shift to standard time, the morning when motorists benefit from an extra hour of sleep.

Adjusting to an hour's time change at home is more difficult than when you're traveling, says Lynne Lamberg, author of "Body- rhythms: Chronobiology and Peak Performance."

"Daylight-Saving Time asks you to pay attention to the clock on

the wall and just pretend the sun has changed," she says. "But our bodies are still very much in touch with the natural world. Indoor light gives us the illusion of being in control, but it's the light and dark outside that really regulate our body rhythms. Sunlight regulates our sleep, body temperature, blood pressure, cell division and the times when we work at our best and at our worst."

She feels particular sympathy for parents, especially those with adolescents.

Teen-agers' body clocks are programmed to go to bed later and get up later.

"People who have to wake up teen-agers know it's almost impossible to get them out of bed two minutes earlier -- much less an hour," she says. "You can imagine what this time change is going to do to parents' mood this week, much less to teen-agers'."

Daylight-Saving Time was first used in Germany to conserve fuel during World War I. The United States introduced it in 1918 as an emergency wartime measure and abandoned it the next year.

World War II brought "War Time" -- year-round Daylight-Saving Time. After the war, some places kept it and others didn't. ("Farmers are still opposed to Daylight-Saving Time," Lamberg says. "They say that the cows get up with the sun and that they get up with the cows.")

In 1966, Congress passed the first uniform time act to standardize the transition from Daylight-Saving to standard time and back again across the country.

Police officers, ophthalmologists and transportation safety folks are all in favor of longer days. So are American businesses: Daylight-saving boosts bucks for all kinds of leisure-time industries. In 1987, a lobbying coalition representing fast-food restaurants, amusement parks, garden and lawn suppliers and sports equipment manufacturers helped move the annual time change from the last week of April to the first. Talk continues about extending Daylight-Saving Time until the first week of November; currently, it ends the last Sunday of October.

"The people who manufacture candy would love to have it run into November because it means kids would stay out later trick-or-treating on Halloween," Lamberg says.

So, any tips for those of us who are staggering, rather than springing, forward into longer days?

Step outside -- early morning daylight is at least five times brighter than room light -- to reprogram your body clock.

Avoid scheduling important appointments early in the day.

Be mindful of the grogginess of family members, colleagues and fellow drivers.

Remember caffeine.

Finally, consider moving: Not all states recognize Daylight-Saving Time. The folks in Arizona, Hawaii and parts of Indiana are feeling just fine this morning, thank you.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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