In the fall, boarded windows on empty shops shadow the empty streets of Homer. It has been raining for two weeks and the sun finally peeks over the mountains around 9 a.m. Children are catching the school bus long before dawn and are sleepy in their classes. Adults start eating ice cream, gain weight and many become depressed. Is this Seasonal Affective Disorder, or daylight-saving time? The House Labor and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing Monday on a bill to eliminate daylight-saving time. Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, sponsored House Bill 409. The issue of health may be more than a question. The interest and concern shown so far may be legitimately as significant to Alaskans as the matters of subsistence, PFD and taxes.
Like the birds that migrate with such uncanny precision, our bodies tune themselves to a biological clock called circadian rhythm. This rhythm exquisitely aligns itself to the sun, the tides and the moon. Life in Homer is attuned to the sun and the tides but our wristwatches read Juneau time. Our bodies are two hours out of phase. Furthermore, we are out of phase as if we were traveling east. Curiously the phenomenon resembles jet lag. We can fly west fairly easily, following the sun and thus lengthening the day. Our body's clock adapts rather rapidly to a lengthening day but not to a shortening day. When we travel east, thus shortening the day, jet leg ensues. Turning our watches forward in the spring is like jet lag, forcing us ahead of our own time.
In the early hours of the morning, in anticipation of sunrise, essential hormones spike to high levels. When Juneau time and daylight-saving time urge us to get up two hours earlier than this inborn sidereal clock, our bodies do not respond well. In Homer we start our fishing fleet at what amounts to 3 a.m. "sun time." Our flying services hazard an unnecessary two hours of fog and mist. Our 8 a.m. departure schedule is really 6 a.m. At these latitudes the long summer days and the long winter nights add a further twist and may actually make matters worse.
In the work place, accident and injury rates increase dramatically during the graveyard shift. A shortening of the sleep cycle results in early hour's lethargy and psychomotor slowing. Just like jet leg, the phenomenom results in lost productivity and an increase in accidents.
Daylight-saving time does not save daylight. It merely displaces daylight. During World War II daylight-saving time made some sense because of the desire to get home before the enforced blackout made driving hazardous. Today, daylight-saving time is an anachronism from the 1940s, arguably doing far more harm than good.
Homer is near the same meridian as the eastern edge of the Hawaiian Islands. The Polynesian people too are in tune with the sea and the sun. In their wisdom the Hawaii Legislature rejected daylight-saving time. We too should reject Juneau time and daylight-saving time and elect a normal approximation of sun time. Hawaiian time is our natural time zone (HST). Here is a plea for the sundial, a healthier lifestyle and a sunnier morning, not to mention feeling better, greater safety and probably greater productivity.
<> Clancy Hughes is a retired physician, pilot and operator of Hughes Float Plane Service in Homer.