Blue Dawn–Daylight Savings Time Hurts

Good? Morning.Wake up, people! Daylight Savings Time is a disease, it’s not a cure! The US government’s extension of Daylight Savings Time by an additional four weeks per year during the dark days of early spring and late fall is what’s making you feel so groggy. See that black patch on the left? That’s what it looks like out your window when your alarm goes off in the morning this time of year. It doesn’t have to be that way. But I’m guessing that the benighted legislators of Washington DC are blissfully unaware of melanopsin and its profound effect on your sense of health and wellbeing.

Melanopsin? Who? What?

Sure, that’s what the DC lawmakers are probably saying. They haven’t got the foggiest notion of how the human brain wakes up in the morning. They’re too busy obsessing about when we turn on and off our lightbulbs, and now much foreign oil it takes to keep those bulbs burning. Okay. Fair enough. Daylight Savings Time decreases the number of oil barrels we import and saves us each, what? A couple bucks per month?

Now, if I were to suggest that harming your health is not worth that couple of bucks, would you be interested in hearing why?

Visual pigmentsI thought you might. That’s why I took most of this morning to read deeply into the scientific literature and brush up on my photoreceptor cell biology. Now don’t get skittish. I’m not going to barrage you with techno-mumbojumbo. Well, not too much. But let me tell you a little about what happens when you are sleeping in the wee early hours of the morning. Inside your eyes, there are some cells whose job it is to see right through your eyelids and detect the first faint traces of dawn. Those traces come into your bedroom as a bluish glow from the morning horizon, and you “see” the light before you are even awake.

Well, thanks a lot, Daylight Savings Time, for making us turn our clocks forward. And double thanks a lot for making us do it earlier in the spring than ever before, so that the pitch blackness of 5 AM occurs at 6 AM on our reset clocks. That’s early enough that the blue glow of dawn has not even started to creep across our windowsills. That lack of natural pre-dawn glow is exactly why it is so hard to crawl out of bed in winter, or in the early spring under normal–forget Daylight Savings Time–conditions.

What the legislators have done is to extend by several weeks the awful dark time of winter mornings right into spring. And they have done it by simply forcing us to “spring ahead” too soon. It’s a recipe for making us all want to “fall back” into bed.

And it is also a recipe for making us sick. Read anywhere you want to about the awful consequences of S.A.D., seasonal affective disorder. That’s the well-known human reaction to the dark days of winter when all kinds of epidemics increase, violent crimes increase, suicides increase, and well–if it’s bad, you name it.

There is a simple solution, DC lawmakers. Surrender a bit of oil-money as a health insurance policy to keep us all happier and healthier. It isn’t all about the almighty dollar, you know. Human wellbeing OUGHT to be your number one priority in DC. Remember the Declaration of Independence? That bit about the “pursuit of happiness?” Well, by extending Daylight Savings Time, I believe you have trodden directly upon that particular “inalienable right.”

So come on DC, for the health of us all, repeal Daylight Savings Time–the extension at least, if not the whole cockamamie idea that the government should control time.

Note: For too much technical information, consult this excellent review of photobiology and the effects of melanopsins, from Oxford University.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes Peyton McKean mystery stories and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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3 Responses to Blue Dawn–Daylight Savings Time Hurts

  1. Inferdramon says:

    I heard that Daylights Savings Time was instated to save money on candlelight. This was back when either lightbulbs weren’t invented yet or weren’t that commonplace. Nowadays, candlelight has become obsolete with lightbulbs that can be turned on and off constantly and last much longer than candles. So Daylight Savings is obsolete as well, outdated, a relic of a bygone era. I think some places in the world either already did away with it or never had it to begin with.

  2. Ralph Morgan Lewis says:

    An outstanding article. Very informative, and led me to delve into the intricacies and complexity of photobiology via additional research. Thank you for presenting this stimulating topic. It certainly sheds more light on seasonal affective disorder, a malady from which I suffer (even when I lived in Long Beach, CA).

  3. Tom Hopp says:

    Glad this helps, Ralph. The science is complex, but a picture is emerging where humans have age-old behavioral connections to light, especially blue light. I’ve been replacing old orangey incandescent bulbs around my home with the new compact “daylight” fluorescents because they are loaded with that beneficial blue wavelength.

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