For many of us, getting up and going to work on a Monday can feel impossibly hard under even the most ideal conditions. But if today — Monday, March 13 — has been extra challenging for you to stop hitting the snooze button repeatedly, you’re not alone, and there’s a good reason why this feels like the Monday-ist Monday of all time. Thanks to the “spring forward” start of daylight saving time, we lost an hour of sleep. Although there’s an upside to all this — an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day — according to experts, this jump forward is just plain bad for our health.
Indeed, the jump forward by an hour each March to begin daylight saving time is connected to negative health outcomes, including teen sleep deprivation and heart attacks, per The Conversation.
Researchers say these effects are directly related to losing natural morning light, which is “essential for helping to set the body’s natural rhythms,” The Conversation notes. “It wakes us up and improves alertness. Morning light also boosts mood – light boxes simulating natural light are prescribed for morning use to treat seasonal affective disorder.”
Other research shows that the average American loses 40 minutes of sleep the night after Daylight saving time begins, “incurring a sleep debt that does not appear to be recovered when the clocks ‘fall back’ in the fall,” Forbes points out. But the negative effects go beyond tiredness.
In addition to the spike in sleep deprivation and heart attacks, there’s an uptick in car crashes, emergency room visits, strokes, and missed medical appointments, Forbes states. There is also data showing that workplace injuries and deaths by suicide experience an uptick.
There are long-term consequences, too, research suggests. Changing the clock twice a year and abruptly changing the body’s internal clock can exacerbate pre-existing health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
“It’s become clear to me and many of my colleagues that the transition to daylight saving time each spring affects health immediately after the clock change and also for the nearly eight months that Americans remain on daylight saving time,” Beth Ann Malow, Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, writes in her article on The Conversation.
But will this DST madness ever end? Probably not. Though a congressional bill was proposed in the Senate in March 2022 to change daylight saving time into a permanent time state, meaning there would be no “fall back” in autumn, that bill will probably never go anywhere. Called the Sunshine Protection Act, the bill failed to get a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, the bill has since been reintroduced, according to Reuters.
In any case, permanent DST might not be the answer to our health woes. In 1973, Congress approved changes to a permanent daylight saving time, and everyone was thrilled at first. However, the bill was repealed three years later when it became clear it wasn’t as good as people hoped it would be — instead, people were miserable, sunrises were as late as 9 a.m. in some parts of the United States, and there was an increase in accidents in the morning.
The answer might be to shift to daylight standard time instead of daylight saving time. This would allow us to have the perks of waking up with the Sun and all the benefits that brings — even if we don’t get those super long summer nights that we love.
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