Sunday morning at 2:00am the time in most of North America officially changed from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. The bonus, 300+ million people got to sleep an extra hour and will be getting out of bed an hour later than they did during the summer. The negative, 300 million Americans will lose an hour of daylight heading into winter when there is already less daylight. I recall much of my career I would head home from work in the dark during Winter. Any errands I needed to do after work were in the dark. In late June it remains light until after 9:00pm. In Winter it starts getting dark around 5:30pm.
For others, it’s a disruptive practice that can throw our circadian rhythms out of whack for days, possibly even weeks. Even though we are only turning the clocks back one hour, that one hour can have a noticeable impact on our rest and schedules.
After a time change it isn’t that easy to reset out internal sleep cycle clock. It’s not like resetting the clocks on the microwave and oven, which is a pain because I want them synchronized.
“We all have a built-in body clock, or a circadian rhythm. Humans are on a schedule. What turns us on and trains us is all about light. Humans are not good nocturnal animals. We’re programmed to be awake when it’s light and asleep when it’s dark. In modern civilization we disrupt that [with daylight saving],” said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, a sleep medicine specialist with Northwell Health.
While an extra hour of sleep (at the expense of an hour of daylight) may seem enjoyable for the first week, it turns brutal in the Spring when we’re forced to go to bed an hour earlier than our body is used to and get up an hour earlier.
According to a position from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “The light/dark cycle is key in circadian entrainment. The acute alterations in timing due to transitions to and from DST contribute to misalignment between the circadian biological clock and the light/dark cycle (or photoperiod), resulting in not only acute personal disruptions, but significant public health and safety risks.”
The statement points out that most acute health-related effects are noted only when transitioning from standard to DST (“springing ahead” an hour). However, transitions both into and out of DST have been associated with sleep disruption, mood disturbances, and suicide.
Sleep experts agree that changing the time twice a year is not good for our sleep cycle. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine wants to get rid of Daylight Savings Time.
For members of the sleep professional community, it has long been a hope that the government would do away with the changing of the clocks because it can be just that damaging for sleep cycles.
The Senate voted in March 2022 to make Daylight Savings Time permanent. However, the House of Representatives is split on whether to make Daylight Savings Time permanent or to do away with Daylight Savings Time and make Standard Time permanent. Both parties and both Houses of Congress agree the status quo needs to go. I’m personally in favor of permanent Daylight Savings Time. The argument for Standard Time is that those delicate little children will have to walk to school in the dark if Daylight Savings Time is permanent. If you live near a school zone as I do, the number of small children walking to school is zero.