Benjamin Franklin Is The Reason You’re Losing Sleep This Weekend

As if Monday mornings weren’t difficult enough as it is. With the exception of Arizona and Hawaii, the rest of us are looking at an exceptionally bleary-eyed start to the week, as once again we are subjected to Daylight Saving Time (DST). At least when you are standing in line for the coffee pot at work, you will know who to blame for your sleep-deprived state — Benjamin Franklin.

One of the greatest Americans in history started this whole mess, but his heart was in the right place, or at least his sense of humor. Benjamin Franklin, during a stay in Paris, France, observed that Parisians did not wake before noon; this spawned the composition of “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” where Benjamin Franklin, being very tongue-in-cheek, suggested that if Parisians merely dragged themselves out of bed a bit earlier and started their day, they would save money and supplies required to produce artificial light, such as candles and lamp oil. Benjamin Franklin then submitted his comedic prose to The Journal of Paris in 1784.

Though his essay was conceived and shared in jest, Benjamin Franklin expressed his thoughts in such a way that a point had been made. The idea didn’t catch on in America at the time. In fact, it would be another hundred years before the United States employed any system of Daylight Saving Time, but Benjamin Franklin’s concept of frugality and productivity caught on elsewhere. Proponents of DST could be found in New Zealand, England, and Germany. DST didn’t see any practical use until the onset of World War I, where governments saw economic merit in the potential energy savings of Benjamin Franklin’s idea, by burning more daylight than electricity.

Recently, the economic benefits of DST have been questioned, as studies and reports have shown conflicting evidence as to whether the time change produces any economic advantage at all. A 2008 report to Congress by the United States Department of Energy supported Benjamin Franklin’s idea, and found that DST resulted in a savings of approximately 1.3 Terawatt-hours of electricity; but another 2008 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, discounts Benjamin Franklin’s concept, finding that DST actually costs more both economically and environmentally. The study estimates that Indiana (the focus of the study) was hit with a $9 million increase in electric bills as a result of the time change, and absorbed another $1.7 to $5.5 million in costs due to increased pollution emissions during Daylight Saving Time.

But it seems that we may ultimately end up paying for DST with a tax on our bodies.

“From the very beginning, the basic goal of daylight savings was to move the hours of daylight to better match the hours of human activity,” says David Prerau, in an interview with NASDAQ.

But Benjamin Franklin’s ideas of increased productivity may have been flawed. Reports continue to surface, exposing the negative biological impact that DST carries.

Pediatric sleep psychologist Lisa Meltzer tells KHGH-TV in Denver, Colorado, that the changes in our sleep from DST is cause for concern.

“That includes increased rates of driving accidents, increased rates of unintentional injuries, poorer grades for students, higher rates of heart attacks,” she said.

But as sage as Benjamin Franklin may have been, sometimes you just can’t outsmart mother nature.

“When you change clocks to daylight savings time, you don’t change anything related to sun time,” said researcher Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilians University to HealthDay. “This is one of those human arrogances – that we can do whatever we want as long as we are disciplined. We forget that there is a biological clock that is as old as living organisms, a clock that cannot be fooled. The pure social change of time cannot fool the clock.”

[Image via wondergressive.com]