Optimists will applaud the brighter mornings now that daylight saving time expired over the weekend.

But realists know what lurks at the end of Monday’s workday: darkness.

Monday’s sunset at 5 p.m. signals the first of many so-called day shifts that end in gloom. “Falling back” feels like falling into a well, as we get used to emerging from work into a world that looks no different from a bout of insomnia.

(Those who work night shifts may roll their eyes now.)

Optimists will buck up, noting that it’s only seven weeks until the winter solstice, the year’s longest night, after which the days will slowly begin to grow longer and brighter. Right?

Realists know otherwise.

There’s a squeeze play at work here, due to the Earth’s oval orbit around the sun, not to mention how its degree of tilt changes as it orbits, and probably some other important stuff.

The earliest sunset in Minneapolis actually will come on Dec. 9 at 4:31 p.m. On Dec. 12, it will be 4:32 p.m., thus beginning the incremental inching back to summer, when we’ll impatiently wait until it’s dark enough for fireworks.

The trouble is, sunrises will keep getting later and later until the second week of January, when their subtle reversal will begin. If you want a minute-by-minute game plan, go to ­timeanddate.com and click on “sunrise and sunset.”

The winter solstice on Dec. 21 truly will be the shortest day of the year, with eight hours, 46 minutes and 10 seconds of daylight. But face it: It’s going to be dark coming and going for awhile.

Hence, hibernation. □