By Shirley Roberts
– St. James Town Press, November 2021 edition

The Eastern Time Zone, also known as Eastern Standard Time (EST) falls mostly along the east coast of North America.  This year, on November 7th at 2:00 a.m., the time changes by one hour moving backwards. In Canada, the clocks will change in almost all areas except Yukon, most of Saskatchewan and parts of British Columbia. In Ontario, we get to sleep in an extra hour.

This marks the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST), the practice of moving the clocks forward by one hour in the spring, so that we have more light in the spring and summer evenings replacing it with EST, giving us more light in the winter mornings and getting darker earlier in the evenings. The motivation for extending day-light hours through DST is often attributed to farmers, but in fact they were and are opposed, preferring their normal work day to begin and end with the natural rhythms of sunrise and sunset. The main reason many countries adopted DST was motivated by fuel conservation and was introduced for that reason during the First World War, temporarily abandoned afterwards, and reintroduced during the Second World War. 

The original rationale that Daylight Saving Time conserves energy by reducing the use of artificial light is no longer valid, given the modern-day use of computers and TV screens which consume energy no matter how much light there is. Advocates for DST suggest that it is beneficial to have longer hours of light because it motivates people to get out, socialize and exercise more. More daylight may encourage going to restaurants, shopping or other events, thereby giving the economy a boost. Moreover, some studies indicate that road safety is positively affected by DST in that pedestrian deaths are reduced during dawn and dusk hours. Many countries, like Canada, strike a balance by switching back and forth between DST and EST. 

Changing the time does disrupt our body clocks. For most people time change results in a bit of tiredness but for some it can have more negative health consequences. The early evening darkness or shorter days during EST can contribute to depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD affects around 1.6 billion people across the globe. However, studies cannot find a definitive link between shorter days of light and SAD suggesting there may be other issues contributing to it. The arrival of months of darkness along with cold winters in Canada may affect our response to the fall time change. 

One way to ease into the transition is to prepare for it. Anticipate that you might feel more tired, and adjust your sleeping schedule. Make sure you eat well. Plan for the darker days of winter; reach out to friends and family, keeping in touch by phone or social media.  Embrace winter activities like tobogganing and skating. Parks are available for hiking and walking all year round.  If you are affected by depression, contact your family physician or reach out to The Corner (416-964-6657) which can connect you with the support you need.  

As COVID-19 levels begin to decrease due to the success of vaccinations and public health precautions, public venues and the capacity for social gatherings will open up. We just might be able to see a bit more “light” regardless of how long daylight lasts.