Article written by Dr. Daliah.
Clocks fall back one hour on 2 am November 1st this year. And the “Fall Back” appears to provide not only an extra hour of sleep but also added health benefits, including less heart attacks, lowering blood pressure and boosting memory. However, the “Spring Forward” has had suggested health risks, negating the circadian advantage earned in the Fall.
Hence for years many medical experts suggest putting an end to any clock change during the year.
Now the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) encourages elimination of the clock changes as well, and stick with “permanent standard time” as it “more closely aligns with the daily rhythms of the body’s internal clock”.
In a position statement, the AASM has listed the following organizations in support of their recommendation:
- American Academy of Cardiovascular Sleep Medicine
- American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
- American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST)
- American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
- California Sleep Society
- Dakotas Sleep Society
- Kentucky Sleep Society
- Maryland Sleep Society
- Michigan Academy of Sleep Medicine
- Missouri Sleep Society
- National PTA
- National Safety Council
- Society of Anesthesia and Sleep Medicine
- Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine
- Southern Sleep Society
- Start School Later
- Tennessee Sleep Society
- Wisconsin Sleep Society
- World Sleep Society.
Meanwhile, multiple states have mobilized their #SickOfSpringForward and #FinishedWithFallBack forces to put an end to biannual time changes. However, much of the proposed legislation has stalled in Congress, and unification for a year-round calendar with consistency seems to be falling off the clock…..
Therefore a petition has been started by Change.org and has gone viral, exploding in the last few days to garner over 100,000 signatures and rising. Its goal is to alert Congress to listen to the needs of individual states, and now sleep experts, in their requests to end biannual time changes.
A few years back, California passed Proposition 7, making Daylight Saving Time year-round and permanent. Other states who have proposed legislation include the following:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Some states had put forth legislation to be on Atlantic Standard Time, a time zone one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time that essentially puts them on year-round Daylight Saving Time. These include Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Multiple health risks have been cited in scientific literature during the “Spring Forward” and are cited below, including car accidents, heart attacks and workplace injuries.
Dr. Paul Kalekas, an Internal Medicine and Attending Physician at Valley Hospital Medical Center who has practiced in Nevada for years, states, “It’s time this gets done.”
Nevada’s original bill failed to pass in Congress a few years back so he and other physicians are working to resubmit legislation.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced the Sunshine Protection Act to make daylight savings time the new, permanent standard time. States with areas exempt from daylight savings time may choose the standard time for those areas.
However, critics worry that states choosing their own time may disrupt the time zone uniformity.
So how did we end up here in the first place?
History of Daylight Saving Time
This ritual began in ancient civilizations, when daily schedules would be adjusted to the change in daylight. Later Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay for Parisians entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” in 1784 explaining how less candles could be used if people woke up earlier, making more use of nature’s early light.
Although other countries adopted Daylight Saving Time before the US, such as Germany in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was the first to sign it into law in 1918 to conserve coal during the Great War. It was eventually repealed, though a handful of states maintained it. In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt, again to assist the conservation needed for the war efforts, made “Daylight Saving Time” year round, calling it “War Time”. After the war, however, no federal law maintained the time change and states chose to do what they wished. The Uniform Time Law of 1966 attempted to unite the states in this effort and the law, signed by President Lydon B. Johnson, decreed Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. States had the right to vote to exempt themselves. By 2007, the Energy Policy Act, created in 2005 declared that Daylight Saving time begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November. Some states, including Arizona and Hawaii, do not convert to DST.
What are the risks to Daylight Saving Time start?
Now besides the groaning that occurs each week when we “lose” an hour at night of sleep, concerns have risen in the scientific community regarding health risks. These include headaches, workplace injuries, car accidents and heart attacks to name a few.
A study from the University of Colorado a few years back found a spike in car accidents the first week after Daylight Savings Time change. Apparently drivers did worse with one hour less of sleep that those comfortable with their routine prior to the time change.
In 2014 a different study from the same university found heart attack risk to spike 25% the following Monday after the “spring forward” but fell to almost normal when the clocks fell back in the Fall.
An additional study in Chronobiology International found IVF success rates drop during this time in women, who had a previous miscarriage.
Studies citing health risks associated with “Spring Forward” of daylight saving time include the following:
- Car Accidents: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199604043341416
- Heart Attacks: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc0807104
- Workplace Injuries: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/apl9451317.pdf
- Suicide: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00331.x
- Pregnancy loss and fertility: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07420528.2017.1279173
- Depression: https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2017/05000/Daylight_Savings_Time_Transitions_and_the.7.aspx
Health Benefits to Gaining an Hour of Sleep
Multiple studies have shown that even gaining one hour of sleep offers multiple health benefits. These include the following:
- A study from the University of Chicago found blood pressure levels to improve: the benefit of one hour of additional sleep was comparable to the gains from lowering systolic blood pressure by 17mm Hg
- A study published in the British Medical Journal found a 21% decrease in heart attacks on the Tuesday following Daylight Savings Time. This was the opposite of the 24% increase in heart attacks at the same hospitals when the clocks sprang forward in March.
- A 2001 study found a significant decrease in fatal accidents when the clocks fall back in Autumn. The opposite was true in the Spring.
- Other studies have suggested less gene expression when it comes to putting people at risk for diabetes and cancer. The extra hour of sleep was found to decrease stress and inflammation.
- You gain energy and alertness in the morning. If you became accustomed to waking up at 7 am, now with the clock change, you feel as if you slept in to 8 am. Some may wake up at 6 am since their circadian rhythm doesn’t care what the new time states, allowing more of an opportunity to grab your cup o Joe or a quick workout.
Now with electricity, batteries, generators, and charged mobile devices, the need to change the clocks to conserve energy isn’t as urgent as it once was. However to minimize the health risks, I, each year, suggest the following:
- Prepare for the time change before it happens. Wake up 10 -20 minutes early a few days before the change so that the one hour shift isn’t too drastic for our delicate circadian rhythms
- Continue your exercise each morning (and don’t skip it the Monday morning after DST) so your body gets accustomed to the adrenaline surge and you’ll be able to maintain your morning alertness despite the time change.
- Eat a balanced breakfast. You should be doing this as well year-round but remember to include protein and complex carbs as energy sources.
- Make use of natural sunlight to help wake you up. Just as we benefit from the moonlight to help us fall asleep, our body needs sunlight to wake up. Take a short walk each morning to get some brisk exercise in and sunlight at the same time.
- Don’t stress about the time change. You’ll build it up bigger than it has to be and anxiety stresses the heart.
- Go to bed a little earlier Sunday night.
And if you’re #SickofSpringForward or #FinishedWithFallBack sign the petition here: