Feeling groggy, disoriented, and low on energy due to the clock-change? It’s time for a change, say scientists and sleep experts nationwide. As we recently “fell back” this past Sunday, the debate over Daylight Saving Time (DST) gained fresh momentum. Sleep experts call for an end to Daylight Saving Time, emphasizing its adverse impact on health and well-being. With the mounting evidence underscoring the adverse effects of this biannual clock adjustment on our well-being, the call to abolish the practice has never been more urgent.
In a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (ASSM), 63% of Americans expressed a desire to eliminate seasonal time changes associated with the start and end of DST. Among over 2,000 respondents, 27% emphasized that public health and safety should be the primary consideration for elected officials when discussing legislation.
Standard Time vs. Daylight Saving Time
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has long been a vocal advocate for permanent standard time. They view it as the solution to the health and safety issues associated with daylight saving time. DST time misaligns our internal clocks with the natural environment, increasing the risks to our physical health, mental well-being, and public safety.
The AASM’s position is reinforced by a coalition of 20 medical, scientific, and advocacy organizations, all emphasizing the significant health and safety concerns tied to daylight saving time. Even the National Sleep Foundation has chimed in, advocating for the elimination of seasonal time changes due to their disruptive impact on sleep health.
The Sleep Disruption Dilemma
One of the major concerns of the sleep experts calling for an end to Daylight Saving Time, is its impact on our sleep patterns and overall health. Although we only wake up an hour earlier during DST, it can have a cumulative effect. This seemingly minor adjustment can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and fatigue, with potential long-term consequences for our health. Losing just one hour of sleep can result in a domino effect of sleep deprivation, affecting not only our mood and performance but also our physical well-being.
“Permanent standard time helps synchronize the body clock with the rising and setting of the sun,” said Dr. James A. Rowley, president of the AASM in a press release. “This natural synchrony is optimal for healthy sleep, and sleep is essential for health, mood, performance, and safety.”
The Impact on Workplace Safety
Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, chair of the AASM Public Safety Committee, warns that DST increases risks to our physical health, mental well-being, and public safety. In fact, studies have shown an increase in workplace injuries in the week following the DST transition, linked to human error.
The AASM’s stance is influenced by the extensive research that underscores the dangers associated with seasonal time changes. According to Jennifer Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist and president of the AASM, “Mounting evidence shows the dangers of seasonal time changes, which have been linked to increased medical errors, motor vehicle accidents, increased hospital admissions, and other problems.” These concerns extend beyond individuals and employers. They also have broad implications for public health and safety.
Seasonal time changes, have been associated with the following health risks:
Increased Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents:
Research has shown that the transition to daylight saving time is linked to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, potentially endangering employees who drive to work.
In addition to accidents, in the days following the shift to daylight saving time, traffic fatality reports increase by as much as 6%.
Stroke and Hospital Admissions:
Studies have shown an increased risk of stroke and hospital admissions following the time change, creating potential challenges for the healthcare system, and affecting work performance.
Workers may experience reduced productivity and well-being in the workplace due to mood disturbances related to the change in sleep schedules.
Elevated Stress Levels:
The body’s production of inflammatory markers, a response to stress, increases during time changes, potentially leading to reduced tolerance for stress in the workplace.
The Quest for Permanent Standard Time
Daylight Saving Time began as an energy-saving measure during World War I. It has long been the subject of debate. While the intentions behind DST were laudable—promoting energy conservation, reducing electricity usage, and increasing overall productivity—its impact on our daily lives is far more complex.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to eliminate seasonal time changes altogether. In 2022, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which sought to establish permanent DST in the United States. The transition to permanent standard time would not come without its challenges. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that everyone will be excited by the change- something that scientists acknowledge. The main concern with permanent DST is that it could lead to dark mornings, particularly in northern states, impacting safety during commutes, especially in the winter months. However, a shift to standard time would offer the opportunity to adapt more naturally to daylight as it changes throughout the year.
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