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Daylight saving time 2013: 'Spring ahead,' even in winter

Don't be fooled by that Matterhorn-sized snow pile that the plow left Friday outside your window or in the parking lot at work. It's time to spring ahead.

In what most would consider a more pleasant sign of the season than a three-day nor'easter, daylight saving time returned today.

Clocks should have been set one hour ahead at 2 a.m. Sunday, meaning we all give back the extra hour of sleep we got last Nov. 3-4 (that was the first weekend after superstorm Sandy, so at least we earned it).

Early-to-bed types should have turned their clocks ahead before retiring Saturday night.

The return to daylight saving time will mean darkness will linger earlier in the morning and daylight will persist later into the evening. Sunrise in White Plains will be at 7:24 a.m. Sunday, with sunset at 6:50 p.m.

Since 2007, the 48 states observing daylight saving time have "sprung ahead" at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and "fallen back" at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November. (Hawaii and all of Arizona except for the Navajo Indian Reservation are the holdouts, according to the website of the California Energy Commission.)

Daylight saving time is observed largely as a means of saving energy, though some studies dispute the benefits, according to the CEC website. It was first suggested by the founding father Benjamin Franklin in 1784 in a satirical essay and was first observed by combatant nations during World War I, including the United States, which went on daylight saving time for the duration of the war in 1918.

The U.S. picked up the practice again during World War II, and Congress in 1966 established nationwide standards for annual start and end dates with the Uniform Time Act, according to the CEC website.

Some fear the springtime switch is not only sleep-depriving but a threat to your health. A 2008 Swedish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine cites a 5 percent increased risk of serious heart attack in the first week of daylight saving time. A Canadian study in 1996 and a study in the journal Sleep Medicine in 2001 showed an increase in automobile crashes on the Monday following the onset of daylight saving.

A study prepared last year for sleep product marketer by consultant Chmura Economics & Analytics claimed that the lost hour costs local economies in the nation's 360 largest metropolitan areas a total of $434 million, or $1.65 per person.

Part of the reason is a 3.1 percent increase in "cyberloafing" (nonjob-related Internet surfing, email checking, that kind of thing) on the first Monday of daylight saving time, the study claims.

So on Monday, if your boss wants to know why that time-sensitive project still seems nowhere near completion, stand up, square your shoulders, look him or her straight in the eye ... and blame Ben Franklin.

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