A lot of us complained about the bi-yearly time change, but will the alternative truly be better for us?
While daylight savings time does give us more daylight hours, it also can disrupt our sleep schedule and lead to various health issues. Altering the body’s circadian rhythms by even an hour can change the delicate balance of hormones, digestion, body temperature, and many other factors.
Changing the Natural Rhythm of Things
The circadian rhythm is partially controlled by melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. Melatonin is released when incoming light levels are processed by the brain. More light, in the case of daylight savings time, means less melatonin production.
Other common phenomena are related to circadian rhythm and melatonin production, like jet lag. Night shift workers are also no stranger to this problem, essentially trying to train their bodies to work in reverse. People with sleep disorders and mental health issues also experience imbalances in melatonin and altered sleep schedules.
The clock-changing practice of moving to and from Daylight Savings Time each year hails back to Europe during a time when working outside in the daylight was common – and more of it was useful for farm chores and labor jobs. The practice was adopted in the U.S. during WWI as a way to save energy costs used by electricity during the night-time hours.
Now, as the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 is about to take effect, we will switch one last time – to remain on Daylight Savings Time permanently. There are many strong advocates on both sides of the issue, but one of the most concerning issues is possible health effects down the road.
What the Sleep Experts Say About Permanent Daylight Savings Time
CNN Health reports several likely ill effects to our health as a result of permanent Daylight Savings Time. This information is gathered from several academic and clinical sleep experts across the country.
Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School states for CNN “I’m one of the many sleep experts what knows it’s a bad idea. Your body clock stays with natural light, not with the clock on your wall. And there’s no evidence that your body fully shifts to the new time.”
Dr. Phylli Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University opposes Daylight Savings Time, noting that standard time, which we enter when we move our clocks back in the fall, is much closer to the sun’s cyclical day and night. This cycle has set our body’s circadian rhythm for centuries – which may be difficult to overcome with a piece of legislation.
Over 25 years of research into circadian rhythms and time changes has revealed a laundry list of ill health effects:
- Increased risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes
- Increased risk of stroke and heart disease
- Worsening mood disorders such as depression
- Altered digestive and endocrine systems
- Reduced overall life expectancy
The effects of moderately reduced sleep are felt almost immediately. A 2003 study concluded that humans getting one hour less sleep for two weeks consecutively had the same motor and thinking impairments as someone who had gone without sleep for two nights in a row.
Will it Stick?
The U.S. has tried permanent daylight savings time twice before and ended it early. The UK has also tried and ended it, as have Russia and India. It remains to be seen if this third time will be the charm, but it is worthwhile to make some extra allowances for getting extra sleep as your body adjusts.
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