Daylight Saving Time: Is it Harmful to Our Health?
Do you lose sleep over daylight saving time (DST)? Apparently yes, you do, about 40 minutes on the Monday after "springing it forward" and perhaps for days or weeks after that too. I'm not a medical expert, but I'm okay with the annual spring shift to DST. I don't remember it costing me much sleep. Living close to the 49th parallel, mid-summer light comes way earlier than I need it and having an extra hour of summer evening light enables me to enjoy a round of golf after work. Conversely, I wouldn't like morning light in winter to be delayed as for much of November through early February, my walk to work is in the dark.
What's the background to DST and what are experts saying?
The first place to implement DST was Port Arthur and Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, on July 1, 1908. It was at the encouragement of a local businessman John Hewitson to have an extra evening hour of summer sun. A man after my own heart - maybe he was a golfer as well! Over the next few years, some other Canadian cities followed. Today Canadian DST implementation remains a hodgepodge with only 7 Provinces or Territories entirely adopting DST. Parts of each of BC, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut don't do DST and the Yukon did DST but abandoned it in 2020.
Germany first introduced DST in 1916 during WW1 as an energy savings measure and the US followed in 1918 but repealed it a year later. The US brought DST back in 1942, but it wasn't uniform among states or even localities. Then in 1966 the US standardized DST with the Uniform Time Act (except in Hawaii and Arizona) and most Canadian jurisdictions followed to align with our American neighbours. In 1974 the US opted to go to DST year round, but dark winter mornings dimmed the enthusiasm for that and the US returned DST to a seasonal event.
So is DST a good idea? Many experts such as Dr. Samer Hattar (@SamerHattar) say annually switching from Standard Time (ST) to DST and back is detrimental to our health, having a cumulative effect on our circadian rhythm. As he discussed on an Andrew Huberman @hubermanlab podcast in October 2021 early light is important, as is reduced light before sleep time. Some of the consequences of disruption to our circadian rhythm included an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke, difficulty with memory and focus, appetite changes and cravings and increased irritation (maybe from being tired?).
Kenneth Wright, Director of Colorado University's Sleep and Chronobiology Lab agrees with Dr. Hattar and strongly feels that ST should be the norm, not DST. That's because dark mornings mean sleepier commuters, icier winter roads and more children going to school in the dark. Likewise more evening light encourages later sleep hours and that's associated numerous health problems.
So how can we minimize the time switch impact? An article by Alison Gwinn for AARP has some tips. These include wear yourself out on Saturday, turn off electronics early, get up at the same clock time Sunday as you normally do, but get outside to take in natural light as soon as possible. It can also include adjusting your go to bed time gradually on the preceding days.
I don't find the DST and back transition a big of a deal. I like the longer summer evenings, but I wouldn't mind delaying the shift from ST to DST a couple of weeks, to more reliably have morning light when I go work. But if we were to abandon the twice annual clock change, I'd definitely prefer sticking to ST. Feel free to let us know what you think and have a great, albeit shorter weekend (in many areas) this weekend!
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Thank you, and have a great time this weekend!