- For years, medical experts have pointed out how daylight saving time can negatively impact sleep.
- Daylight saving time, which begins in spring and ends in mid-autumn, can make it harder to wake up and fall asleep because the “wall clock” moves away from the “sun clock.”
- If enacted, the Sunshine Protection Act would make daylight saving time permanent in all but two states. But health experts are advocating for a permanent year-round Standard Time.
Medical experts continue to point out health consequences of summer time – including how time changes can disrupt your sleep cycle.
“It’s the same story every year” Dr. Sabra AbbottNorthwest medical doctor and associate professor of neurology in the school’s Department of Sleep Medicine, USA TODAY told USA TODAY.
“We’re dealing with competing clocks,” Abbott said, pointing out that our bodies typically track the sun, not the time on our phones. How long sunlight lasts each day depends on the season and where you are geographically – but daylight saving time takes us even further away from the “sun clock”, experts say.
“During standard time, noon tends to be the point at which the sun is highest in the sky. But when we switch to daylight saving time, what happens is that the relationship between the ‘wall clock and the sun clock is clearly skewed,’ Abbott said. .
This can lead to less sleep.
Most people have a harder time waking up during daylight saving time because the sky stays darker longer in the morning. In turn, many find it difficult to fall asleep at night as the light lasts until later in the evening.
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Especially at this time of year, just before DST ends, “the biggest problem is that our internal clock doesn’t know it’s time to wake up,” says Dr Jennifer Martin , president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, to USA TODAY.
The Department of Transportation, which oversees daylight saving time, says the practice saves energy, reduces crime and prevents traffic accidents. But many medical experts disagree, saying the health consequences of sleep loss outweigh the potential benefits of the time change.
“The advantages are theoretical and the disadvantages are proven,” Martin said.
Of course, sound sleep is essential. Previous studies, including some looking specifically at the health effects of daylight saving time, have shown that long-term lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of the Depression, substance use disorder, heart disease and more.
Citing these health consequences, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published a Position paper 2020 calling on the United States to eliminate daylight saving time and adopt standard time year-round across the country.
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To safeguard. How does daylight saving time work?
If you are in one of 48 States who currently practice daylight saving time, you change your “wall” clocks twice a year. In the spring, the annual daylight saving time period begins – with clocks moving forward one hour from standard time and remaining in daylight saving time until mid-autumn.
Right now we are approaching the end of daylight saving time – with clocks across most of the country set back one hour on Sunday.
Going back to standard time, as most of the United States does on the first Sunday in November, is usually “the easiest (time change) to adapt to,” says Abbott, adding that she encourages people to “take advantage of this time to try and get a little extra sleep.”
Still, it can be an adjustment. Martin notes that people who already have sleep problems, such as insomnia, and parents with infants are particularly affected.
“Most of us feel the disruption in the spring when we lose an hour of the night — but even in the fall, as we go back, some people find it hard to adjust,” Martin said. “It’s a bit like having a little jet lag twice a year.”
What about the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021?
In March, the US Senate passed the Sun Protection Act of 2021. If the bill becomes law, daylight saving time would be permanent in all but two states, Arizona and Hawaii, and a handful of US territories – where standard time is used year-round.
Proponents of passing this legislation have pointed to the potential economic and security benefits – including recent research that suggests permanent daylight saving time will significantly bring fewer deer-vehicle collisions. Still, studies report mixed results. Previous research from the University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, found a 6% spike in car crashes just after the annual “spring ahead” of DST.
From a medical point of view, many experts again point out that it is essential to adopt permanent standard time, not daylight saving time.
“We actually oppose the Sunshine Protection Act because of the potential health and safety risks associated with daylight saving time during the winter months,” Martin said. “The highest risk, of course, will be in the northern states – where in some metropolitan areas sunrise won’t occur until 9:30 a.m. or later… We’re thinking of college students going to the ‘school (in the dark).’
Experts and historians have also noted that the United States has already attempted to switch to permanent daylight saving time – but it didn’t last.
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Abbott adds that while almost everyone wants to “get rid of the back and forth” that comes with two time changes every year, “the real question is, ‘Which direction should we go? … From a sleep and health perspective, the best course seems to be permanent standard time.”
Contributor: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY.