Daylight Saving Time (DST) is not all that it's cut out to be!
March 11, 2023
Tomorrow, most people in the United States will advance their clocks one hour for Daylight Savings Time (DST). Here are seven things you should know about DST:
Making the shift can increase health risks. Evidence points to acute increases in health risks, especially heart attacks and stroke. It also contributes to a heightened risk of mood disturbances, hospital admissions, an elevated production of inflammatory markers in response to stress, and an increase in car crashes.
DST was originally enacted to conserve energy. Benjamin Franklin invented the concept in 1784. Pushing clocks forward to make greater use of daylight hours during the warmer months was formally adopted during World War I as a global attempt to conserve energy
More after-work sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean a happier you. Sunlight is the most powerful synchronizer of our circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight closer to bedtime increases the release of cortisol, which makes it harder to fall asleep at our usual bedtime, and reduces the amount of sleep we’re able to get each night.
Less sleep means more health risks. Moving the clocks forward in the Spring results in going to sleep and waking up before our internal clocks are ready to do so. This misalignment of waking and sleeping times last the duration of DST.
For certain groups, DST has a greater negative impact. Shift workers and adolescents take a bigger hit than most. Adolescents exhibit behavioral, learning, and attention issues, as well as an increased risk of accidents, injuries, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and mental health risks.
DST could become permanent. There has been a recent trend to enact the Sunshine Protection Act, which would result in the permanent misalignment of our internal clocks with the time on our social clocks. The evidence surrounding the health and accident risks surrounding DST is so great, that many are in favor of abolishing it altogether.
There are ways to manage the change. Most people will acclimate to the change in a week or so, while others will take longer or not acclimate at all. To facilitate the change you should gradually adjust your waking and sleeping times, setting your clocks ahead one hour on Saturday evening and going to bed on time, and getting outside on Sunday morning to get some direct sun exposure to help regulate your cortisol/melatonin production.