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Sleep

Daylight Savings Time Or Sleep Deprivation Time?

4 months, 1 week ago

2253  0
Posted on Mar 16, 2021, 6 p.m.

March marks the return of the annual ritual of switching the clock to “spring forward” by one hour to accommodate Daylight Savings Time, this is based on the idea that this will provide one more hour of light in which to be active, particularly the extra hour after work has ended. 

The flaw to this is that the number of daylight hours does not change so there is no actual daylight saving. According to a recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the majority of Americans are in favor of ending time changes, the idea of getting outside with more evening light after a dark winter can make many think that permanent DST is the healthiest choice, but is that true?

In October 2020, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a position statement calling for the elimination of DST in favor of a permanent standard time. The experts suggest that DST lacks benefits, and that is built on myths and pseudoscience. Rather experts suggest that the springing forward time change is associated with increased risks of heart attack, stroke, medical errors, depression, suicide, traffic accidents, and fatal crashes. 

What’s more, is that living eight months annually on DST increases misalignment with our body’s internal clocks. Later evening light hinders the ability to fall asleep earlier, DST particularly affects those with night owl tendencies including teenagers, young adults, and those with shift work or early starting jobs which are typically overrepresented by minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status. 

Realistically, the combination of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment sets one up for increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression, especially those among the previously mentioned. Sleep deprivation even weakens the body’s defense systems and lessens response to vaccinations which is especially important during a breakout as well as cold and flu season. 

Sleep health/hygiene is of utmost importance for all overall health and mental performance, as well as for the motivation, education, and development of children. We are beginning to finally see widespread advocacy regarding the importance of sleep, and it is backed by science. However, the myths backing DST are persistent. 

For example, farmers and laborers have been some of the biggest opponents whereas the myths claim it helps. The Department of Transportation claims that DST saves energy by reducing the need to use electricity for household use, but it is actually associated with increased energy consumption due to people being awake using more energy than those who are sleeping. 

Pro: Longer events. While it does not create more time, moving the clock forward adds an extra hour of natural daylight to the afternoon schedule that could be used for outdoor recreation. However, using the statistics on the global obesity epidemic, DST is not motivating people to get out of the house.

Con: It does not save energy, modern society now uses computers, air conditioners, TVs, and gaming technology regardless of the sun being up or down, meaning that the energy saved from DST is negligible, in fact, energy use can increase because people are awake rather than sleeping. 

Pro: Less artificial lighting. This makes less sense close to the equator or near the poles but the latitudes in between can benefit from an active hour that coincides with daylight if they choose to do so.

Con: People can get sick. Time change can disrupt our circadian rhythm resulting in tiredness. This can be an inconvenience for some but for others, it can have more serious consequences.  Studies link the start of DST to increased car accidents, workplace injuries, depression, suicide, heart attacks, and miscarriages. 

Pro: More light can mean safer. One of the more solid arguments is that lighter evenings are safer. DST contributes to improved road safety by reducing pedestrian fatalities during dawn to dusk hours by 13%. 

Con: It costs money. To go along with more energy being used by people being awake, it is hard to determine the economic cost of the collective tiredness caused by DST although studies have found a decrease in productivity after the transition. Plus there are extra costs in building DST support into systems as well as keeping them maintained and manually changing clocks. 

If roughly only 33% of Americans see the purpose of DST why do over 70 countries still use it? Many argue that DST should really be called Sleep Deprivation time since one more hour of evening activity more frequently than not translates to an hour of less sleep.

Growing up I can remember the time changes were in March and October every year, but this was changed not that long ago. According to a Gallup survey, March is one of the least liked months of the year while October is one of the most liked, perhaps the time change is part of this. I for one am not a fan of DST, I can never seem to adjust to the change and am always tired because I just can’t seem to get back that lost hour of sleep regardless of how hard I try. Come autumn, many are anxiously waiting for time to “fall back”. 

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As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

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