The U.S. senate may not be able to put an end to climate change, but they may stop the changing of clocks. Recently, the Senate passed a bill that would end the bi-yearly chore of resetting clocks. The Sunshine Protection Act, as it is known, would make daylight saving time permanent year-round, beginning in the fall of 2023. The bill now has to go to the House, where its chances remain unclear.
There seems to be a divide on where health professionals stand in relation to the bill, but many are not in favor of it. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, for instance, has called for the abolishment of daylight saving time for many years. Some say that both springing forward or falling back may induce a jet lag-like feeling. In the past, the American Heart Association issued reports of elevated incidents of heart disease and stroke as a result of biological clock shock.
What Is Daylight Saving Time?
In 1916, daylight saving time was introduced in Germany as means to shift more of the working day into sunlight hours. This was a result of tighter resources during World War I. Other countries adopted the same shift, moving the clocks forward one hour in spring and back again in autumn. What happens when you tamper with the natural clock or rhythm that is inherent to the human body?
Humans and other animals have a natural internal clock, the circadian rhythm, which develops before birth. It’s an integral component to life and messing with this rhythm can be dangerous. But people also want to take advantage of natural light during active or working parts of the day. Many European countries, and now the U.S., want to abolish this shifting of time that occurs twice per year. Many say that permanent daylight saving time could be harmful to overall health.
What Do The Experts Say?
According to doctors and sleep experts, the idea of eliminating seasonal time changes is cause for concern. The fear is that permanent daylight saving time will leave clocks stuck in the wrong place. Ideally, people would remain on standard time, when the clocks are set back an hour in the fall. This better aligns with the circadian rhythm, helping us rise when it’s light and sleep when it’s dark. Standard time offers more morning sunshine and less light at night.
Daylight saving time does the opposite, providing darker mornings and more sunshine into the evenings. Sleep experts say that permanent daylight saving time is counterintuitive to the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Standard time better aligns with human biology and current evidence supports the adoption of year-round standard time. Because many people enjoy longer days, though, the Sunshine Protection Act may be voted into action by the House.
Health Problems And Time Change
When the clocks jump forward every spring, there are many public health and safety problems that result, from heart attacks and strokes to mood disorders and car crashes. One of the primary problems is that springing forward, especially during the first week, many people struggle with sleep. On average, people lose 40 minutes of sleep per night, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The same study noticed an increase in workplace injuries as a result of daylight saving time. Compare that to the fact that people get better sleep and become less accident prone when the clocks fall back.
A study from January 2020 observed a commonality of fatal accidents after the spring transition to daylight saving time. The study found a 6% increase in fatal traffic accidents during the first week after the springtime shift. Eliminating the spring seasonal time change, then, could prevent 28 fatal crashes per year, according to the researchers.
Adopting permanent daylight saving time may cause a misalignment between the body’s biological clock and sleep-wake cycle. This could lead to numerous health problems that stem from circadian rhythm disruptions. Some problems may include obesity, dementia, or even type 2 diabetes. Disrupting the circadian rhythm is easy to do, as is evident by the increase in evening daylight during daylight saving time. Although some people may enjoy more evening daylight, they many not be considering the potential health risks for others.