Creatures of darkness

It would be easy to simply bemoan the end of daylight-saving time, to bellyache about big government telling us we must turn back our clocks early Sunday morning and become creatures of darkness. I've thought about doing that.

True, there are disadvantages associated with the end of daylight-saving time. It gets late early, as Yogi Berra might say. Traffic accidents rise as our eyeballs adjust to the dark path home. Coinciding with this lack of light is a drop in temperature. The blackness and the cold remind us that winter is coming, and winter reminds us of death. Bummer.

But enough with the negativity. I say, let's look on the sunny side of adding some extra darkness to our daily routines. Take that death thing. Researchers in Sweden (or maybe it was Australia?) say that heart attacks drop during the week that follows the end of daylight-saving time. It may be sloppy science to say sunlight kills. But these same researchers — wherever they are — contend that in the springtime there is a spike in heart attacks following the start of daylight-saving time, when everybody has to pull themselves out of bed an hour early. Draw your own conclusions.

Another advantage to adding more nightfall to our lives: It encourages trashy television viewing. Ratings for many TV shows increase by about 10 percent during the first week of November, according to information gathered by the website TV by the Numbers. Conversely, ratings for "American Idol," "House" and "Chuck" plummeted among adults 14 to 49 years old during the spring, right after the nation switched to more sunlight. Summing up: A big dose of darkness is good for our inner couch-potatoness.

While we are on the subject of sloth, there is little doubt that, with the exception of farm animals and infants, the switch off of daylight-saving time encourages sleeping. All that darkness makes the melatonin in our brains flow. Researchers in Finland, or was it Iceland — anyway, one of those cold, easy-to-take-a-nap-in countries — have said so.

I do feel certain that the characters credited with dreaming up the concept of daylight-saving time would frown on those of us who like to snooze. One of them was Benjamin Franklin, who during his years in France was upset that most Frenchmen did not bound out of bed at first light, choosing instead to sleep in — and then to stay up late, burning precious candles. Mr. Franklin suggested firing cannons at dawn to rouse the populace, saying it would promote a more efficient use of daylight. How would you like that guy for a neighbor?

Daylight-saving time was first imposed on the United States during World War I. It made a return during World War II. In those years, the nation was on a military footing and, as anyone familiar with the call of a bugle knows, the military believes in rising early. Until the middle of the 1960s, the decisions on whether to observe daylight-saving time, and when it began and ended, were left to local jurisdictions. That meant that travelers on a 35-mile stretch of road between Steubenville, Ohio, and Moundsville, W.Va, once experienced seven times changes. So much for the wisdom of local control.

Since then, Congress has laid down laws that enforce more uniformity. And so, at 2 o'clock Sunday morning, local time, we, as a nation, step back one hour. There are exceptions: Arizona and Hawaii — two states that already have too much sunshine — do not participate in daylight-saving time.

For the rest of us, the change is a chance to embrace the night, or, as artist Thomas Cole put it, to watch the daylight die.

—Rob Kasper

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