The story at a glance
- Most Americans agree that it’s time to put an end to daylight saving time.
- But, if that happens, it remains to be debated whether the United States will permanently switch to Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time.
- While a bill passed by the Senate claims permanent daylight saving time will bring economic and safety benefits, sleep experts point to the many health benefits that come with standard time.
On Sunday, November 6, most Americans will reluctantly set their clocks back one hour when daylight saving time ends for the year.
Most Americans want to ditch the time change we experience twice a year, with polls showing up to 63 at 75 percent Americans supporting an end to the practice.
But, even if the country removes the time change, the question remains whether the United States should permanently adjust to Daylight Saving Time (DST) or Standard Time (ST). .
On the one hand, sleep experts Support a permanent ST, where the mornings are brighter and the evenings darker, as this change would be more in line with human circadian rhythms and help ward off disease.
However, a law passed by the Senate in March 2022 would implement permanent daylight saving time, where mornings are darker and sunlight extends into the evening hours. The Sunshine Protection Act argues that permanent daylight saving time would boost the economy as more Americans stay out later and spend more money.
For many, “falling back” or “jumping forward” is an inconvenience that disrupts daily schedules. But the polls reveal no public consensus on how much time should remain permanent if the change were abolished.
Currently, the United States spends about eight months a year running on DST and about four months on ST, with the exception of Hawaii and most of Arizona, which stays on ST all the year.
The case of the permanent ST
Sleep experts say the health benefits that could come from permanent TS are crucial for chronic disease. sleep deprived nation. In response to darkness, the body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep but is suppressed by light. So having too much sun in the evening can actually interfere with a good night’s sleep.
The status quo leads to circadian misalignment, or “social jet lag,” says Beth Malow, professor of neurology and pediatrics and director of Vanderbilt’s sleep division. Mallow too author the Sleep Research Society position statement advocating permanent ST.
Under DST, our work and school schedules dictate our actions; whereas in an ideal scenario, environmental changes like brighter mornings and darker evenings would regulate sleep patterns, Malow explained in an interview with Changing America.
“There’s a disconnect when we have to get up early for work or school and it’s still dark outside and we want to sleep,” she said.
Morning light wakes humans up, energizes us, and sets our mood for the day. “It actually aligns us so that our body clocks are in sync with what’s going on in our environment,” Malow said.
Having more energy in the morning can also make it easier to fall asleep at night when it’s darker outside.
Overall, ST “maximizes our morning light and minimizes too late night light,” Malow said.
When the body does not get enough sleep, the risks of developing heart disease, diabetes and weight gain are all increase. Lack of sleep is also linked to certain forms of cancer.
Polls show young people are less likely to support abolishing clock changing, largely because they are more flexible than their older counterparts who support banning the practice.
But teens and young adults are at higher risk of negative impacts from permanent daylight saving time, in part because they’re already primed for sleep deprivation.
“What happens when you go through puberty and become a teenager is that…your natural levels of melatonin change by about two hours, so it takes you longer to fall asleep,” Malow said. . “[Teenagers] end up going to bed or being tired at 11 p.m. in the evening, sometimes even midnight, but they have to get up early to go to school.
Students who wake up on darker mornings and drive to school could be at higher risk for car accidents. The same goes for workers who commute early and people in the north or west of time zones who tend to live more in the dark overall.
“Sleep is really, really important to our health. And right now what we’re doing is imposing mandatory social jet lag for eight months of the year,” Malow said. “And we would like – rather than going to mandatory social jet lag for 12 months of the year – to stop the clock and go back to standard time, which is much more natural.”
The daylight saving time argument
Despite the myriad health benefits that come with embracing ST year-round, having more evening sun if daylight saving time were permanently adopted is a tempting prospect for many Americans, especially those who work or go to school indoors all day.
The Sunshine Protection Act, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), taps into those sentiments and argues that permanently adopting daylight saving time could reduce the risk of SAD and improve other aspects of the lives of Americans.
The bill was first introduced in 2021 and received bipartisan support. The Senate passed the bill in March this year and would go into effect next November if passed by the House. States that currently operate on ST would not be required to switch to daylight saving time by law.
Similar efforts have been made at the local level. Over the past five years, 19 states have enacted laws or passed resolutions to adopt DST year-round if Congress authorizes the change.
The efforts follow a trial period in the 1970s when the United States briefly implemented permanent daylight saving time. The country was in the midst of an energy crisis and lawmakers predicted that more evening light would reduce excessive fuel consumption for heating and lighting. However, it was unpopular among American audiences and ended just 10 months later.
In the years that followed, studies pointed to the added benefits of increased evening sunlight, ranging from economic growth to reduced crime.
A study conducted by JP Morgan Chase and Company in 2016 found that “Card spending in Los Angeles experienced a relative increase of 0.9% in the 30 days after the start of DST and a relative decrease of 3.5% in the 30 days after DST. end of DST,” leading the authors to conclude that DST could boost consumer spending.
“It is plausible that cities that use daylight saving time see some benefit from a public safety perspective,” the authors added.
An additional report from 2015 revealed that flights dropped an average of 7% throughout the day as clocks ‘advanced’ into daylight saving time, “with a much larger drop of 27% during evening time which gained a little more sun”, according to the authors wrote.
While promoting the bill in the Senate, Rubio pointed out how permanent daylight saving time could get more kids to be active outdoors.
“We are a country [in which] we desperately want our kids to be outside, playing, playing sports, not just sitting in front of a TV or computer or playing video games all day. And it’s getting really difficult, in many parts of the country, to be able to do that,” Rubio said. said.
“If you look at the way we live in this country, you want to be able to spend more time in the evenings outside. Not just to enjoy the outdoors, but to make sports and outdoor activities accessible to people at a time when, frankly, we’re losing an hour, an hour and a half in some parts of the country, because of [the time change].”