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Daylight Saving Time Harmful to Health

Clock, daylight saving time
Permanent daylight-saving time harmful to health, experts say. Credit: Public Domain

Daylight-saving time has ended once again this year. The ongoing tradition is followed in most parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, and most of Canada.

Each year, clocks move backwards one hour in the fall and then forward again in the spring.

The United States Senate has been trying to put forth a permanent version of daylight-saving time, however. Their reasoning is a number of medical experts’ concerns over its impact on health, given that the changes have a negative impact on the normal sleep cycle.

“It’s the same story every year,” Dr. Sabra Abbott, a Northwestern Medicine physician and associate professor of neurology in the school’s department of sleep medicine, according to a report by USA TODAY.

“We’re dealing with competing clocks,”  she stated, pointing to how our bodies usually follow the sun and not the time on our phones. How long sunlight lasts each day depends on the season and where you are geographically—but daylight-saving time moves us farther away from the ‘sun clock,'” experts have announced.

“During standard time, noon tends to be the point at which the sun is highest in the sky,” Abbott said. “But when we shift to daylight-saving time, what happens is that relationship between the wall clock and the sun clock are clearly skewed.”

Injurious to sleep cycle

Experts have analyzed the harm done to our sleep cycle with only an hour change in our usual cycle.

What their research has found is that we develop ‘social jet lag,’ a syndrome which increases the risk of many damaging disorders. These include diabetes, heart disease and strokes, mood disorders such as depression, a negative impact on the digestive and endocrine system, and an overall shortening of sleep duration.

According to a report by CNN Health, a 2003 study revealed that one hour less sleep for two weeks had the same effect on thinking and motor skills as going without sleep for two full nights.

Another study revealed that reducing sleep by even ninety minutes less than the recommended seven to eight hours altered the DNA makeup of immune cells and boosted inflammation, a major cause of chronic disease in adults. A permanent change would, therefore, make chronic effects even more severe.

According to a statement from the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, it is “not only because we have to go to work an hour earlier for an additional [five] months every year but also because body clocks are usually later in winter than in summer with reference to the sun clock.”

U.S. Senate moves to make time change permanent

In March, after a unanimous vote, the Senate moved to make daylight-saving time permanent by approving the Sunshine Protection Act.

Even so, it must pass in the House of Representatives and then be approved by the President so that it can be put in effect. If it is approved it means that Americans would no longer have to change their clocks twice a year.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the sponsors of the bill, stated, however, that the change would not go into effect until 2023.

“I know this is not the most important issue confronting America, but it’s one of those issues where there’s a lot of agreement…If we can get this passed, we don’t have to do this stupidity anymore,” Rubio said according to a Reuters report.

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