Most people in the US will lose an hour this weekend as the clocks ‘move forward’ to daylight saving time, part of a disruptive half-yearly change warn experts are actively harming our health and our welfare and that US lawmakers are trying to get rid of it for good.
The average American loses 40 minutes of sleep at night after DST begins, research shows, incurring a sleep debt that doesn’t seem to be recovered when the clocks “fall back” in the fall.
In addition to immediately interrupting sleep schedules, the hour-long shift also disrupts the body’s natural rhythm by altering the amount of light we are exposed to in the morning and evening, signals that help regulate sleep. internal body clock.
In the days following spring, fatal car accidents increase, as do emergency room visits, heart attacks, strokes and missed medical appointments.
In the long term, research suggests that the biannual clock change can exacerbate existing health conditions — including mood disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, which can be susceptible to sleep disturbances — and increase the risk of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
Sleep experts strongly oppose the biannual change. During its 2020 position paper, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said daylight saving time can throw the body’s internal clock out of sync with the clock in its environment. This has “significant public health and safety implications,” the group said, “particularly in the days immediately following the annual change.” Since setting out its position, the group’s position has been endorsed by other organizations and expert groups, including the American Medical Association, the World Sleep Society and the National Safety Council.
In most of the United States this Sunday, clocks will move forward one hour and change to daylight saving time. Reports indicate many possible origins for the concept and historically the idea of changing the clocks twice a year, forwards in the spring and backwards in the fall, was to make better use of daylight and save energy. energy. It has been enshrined in federal law for decades and while states can opt out, only Hawaii and Arizona (excluding Navajo Nation lands) have done so. Polls suggest that Americans hate tradition. Polls also indicate little agreement on which system to use instead.
In a rare show of unity, the Senate voted unanimously to end the biannual tradition in favor of permanent DST last year. The bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act, failed in the House of Representatives, reportedly due to disagreements among lawmakers over which system to use permanently. A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the bill in March. According to Reuters, about 30 states have introduced legislation to end biannual changeover, although some are only offering to do so if neighboring states do as well.
While supporting efforts to permanently use a single system, sleep experts have pushed back against efforts to institute permanent DST. While there are negative consequences to changing clocks back and forth, the company noted research showing that these tend to be worse and longer lasting when switching to daylight saving time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine wrote, “A change to permanent standard time is better aligned with human circadian biology and has the potential to produce beneficial effects for public health and safety.”
The United States actually experimented with permanent daylight saving time in 1974. It proved so unpopular – dark mornings would have been a major source of discontent – that the system was scrapped after its first winter.
Permanent daylight saving time would reduce deer collisions and save lives, study finds (Forbes)
Why people hated permanent DST when the US last tried it (Washington Post)