Daylight saving and sleep deficits

[Cross posted from Game Theorist] This weekend, although it was kept relatively secret for some reason, daylight saving time ended in most states in Australia and we started spending it again. We will do so until the daylight deficit grows too much and will in one sharp shock go back into surplus in October.

Regardless of whether it is the beginning or end of daylight saving time, that day and a week after, is generally good news for parents. We are no exception. The problem we face is that young children are particularly disrespectful of time standards. They are set in their old ways and many rise with the sun and also refuse to sleep until it has gone down. Now effective ‘within room’ light management can give you a measure of control but it is rarely perfect.

What this means is that, by the time the end of summer rolls around, your child is going to bed later than you want and it is also hard to get them up for school in the morning. So the end of daylight saving time is a blessing. For a good week, they will drop off nicely and also by easy to get up in the morning; in the Gans household that is something we value but I could see why others might not.

Of course, this can all go to far. By the springtime, we face the opposite problem. The sun is rising very early and with them the children. On the other hand, they are ratty by the end of the day. The start of daylight saving is also a blessing as it allows more sensible readjustment towards from what the angle of the Earth’s axis is dictating.

As I thought about this some more I came to the realisation that when it comes these sorts of problems with children sleeping, society is to blame. After all, we should not face these issues. If a child is getting up at what society claims is ‘4:30am,’ that is only an issue for you because you have a meeting at ‘8:30am.’ If your meeting was at ‘6:30am’ there would be no difference between a child waking up then or two hours later. It is the meeting that needs to adjust for the sleep patterns which after all are biological and therefore not our fault.

True freedom would allow one to keep their own time and have others adjust accordingly. Would it be so bad if we all followed a schedule based on sunrises and sunsets rather than on artificial time? Time shifting using DVRs and VCRs on TV schedules has already allowed us to achieve this in small measure.

Now before you think that I am some sort of freak against daylight saving, what I am arguing for is exactly the opposite; continual daylight saving and spending. Not radical hourly shocks twice a year but continuous readjustment. If we could sync all clocks over the Internet then we could achieve this. The time keeper (I think at the moment that is the Vice President of the US) would dictate what time it was with minor adjustments taking place every night. For everyone, we would just find out the time the usual way but looking at our Internet synced clocks and watches. No one would know the difference, we wouldn’t have to remember to adjust our clocks, all the benefits from daylight saving would be realised (both energy saving and lives), and we would be at one with nature so parents did not have to hold out for the clocks to change. A truly responsive society would give us that much.

3 thoughts on “Daylight saving and sleep deficits”

  1. This would mean Australia ends up with even more timezones. Currently we split Australia into three longitudinal zones, spaced an hour (or half an hour) apart. A sunrise-based policy means latitudinal timezones as well, since cities further from the equator have more variation in day length than those closer to it. I can see this being a nightmare for national broadcasters, and possibly East-coast financial markets as well.

    An alternative was proposed today by Britain’s Daily Telegraph – switch the whole world to GMT. Having worked in the airline industry for several years, I could deal with that, but it would be disconcerting to have the date change in the middle of the day.

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  2. All well and good, Joshua, until your Internet-synced watch falls off your wrist one day and Internet-syncs to the bottom of the swimming pool.

    But given the relativist thinking involved in every person keeping their own time, I suppose the pool is simply rising relative to my prized electronic possession?

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