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Permanent Daylight Savings Time Will Harm Our Health, Experts Say

(CNN) — The end of daylight saving time is here again, part of a fall tradition in which the United States, Europe, most of Canada and other countries set their clocks back an hour. We will move the clocks forward (again) next spring, when governments restore daylight saving time.

But are we putting our trust in an unhealthy and outdated idea?

Not according to the US Senate, which in March passed the Sun Protection Bill of 2021: If it becomes law, daylight saving time will be permanent.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of changing the clock is gathering momentum across the country,” Sen. Marco Rubio, who initially introduced the bill in the US Senate, said in a statement. The Florida legislature voted to make daylight saving time permanent in Florida in 2018, but it can’t go into effect until it’s also federal law.

The bill still has to go through the US House of Representatives and be signed into law by the president. If or when that is the case, we will move our clocks forward and leave them at that, permanently living one hour ahead of the Sun.

However, a growing number of sleep experts say that the act of moving our clocks forward in the spring is ruining our health. Studies over the past 25 years have shown that the change of one hour disrupts body rhythms attuned to the Earth’s rotation, fueling the debate over whether it’s a good idea to have daylight saving time in any form.

“I’m one of many sleep experts who knows this is a bad idea,” said Dr. Elizabeth Klerman, a professor of neurology in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Your biological clock sticks with (natural) light, not the clock on your wall,” Klerman said. “And there is no evidence that your body completely changes to the new schedule.”

Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Evanston, Illinois, also opposes daylight saving time.

“Between March and November, your body receives less morning light and more evening light, which can throw off your circadian rhythm,” he said.

Standard time, which we enter when we turn back our clocks in the fall, is much closer to the sun’s day-night cycle, Zee said. This cycle has marked our circadian rhythm, or biological clock, for centuries.

That internal timer controls not only when you sleep, but also when you want to eat, exercise, or work, as well as “your blood pressure, your heart rate, and your cortisol rhythm,” Zee added.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine called for a ban on daylight saving time altogether: “Current evidence best supports adoption of standard time year-round, which better aligns with human circadian biology and provides distinctive health benefits. and public safety.”

The proposal has been endorsed by more than 20 medical, scientific and civic organizations, including the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the National Association of Parents and Teachers, the National Safety Council, the Society for Research in Biological Rhythms and the World Sleep Society.

What is the damage?

When our internal clocks drift off the solar day-night cycle by even an hour, we develop what sleep experts call “social jet lag.” Studies have shown that social jet lag increases the risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, worsens mood disorders such as depression, affects the digestive and endocrine systems, and shortens the duration of the dream It can even reduce life expectancy.

A 2003 study found that getting one hour less sleep for two weeks had the same effect on thinking and motor skills as not sleeping for two full nights. Reducing sleep by 90 minutes from the recommended 7 to 8 hours for adults altered the DNA of immune cells and increased inflammation, a key cause of chronic disease, according to another study.

Making the time change permanent would make the chronic effects of any sleep loss more severe, not only “because we have to go to work an hour earlier for an additional 5 months each year, but also because body clocks are often later in winter than in summer with reference to the sundial,” according to a statement from the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms.

“The combination of summer and winter time, therefore, would further worsen the differences between body clocks and the social clock and negatively affect our health even more,” the authors concluded.

Why did the Senate pass the bill?

There are reasons why the United States Senate unanimously passed the Sunlight Protection Act. Advocates say the extra daylight at night reduces car accidents and crime, and increases opportunities for commerce and recreation, as people prefer to shop and exercise during the day.

However, research has shown that both heart attacks and fatal car accidents increase after the clock turns forward in the spring. The children also end up going to school in the morning when it is still dark, with disastrous consequences.

When President Richard Nixon signed a permanent daylight saving time law into law in January 1974, it was a popular move. But at the end of the month, the governor of Florida had called for the law to be repealed after eight students were hit by cars in the dark. Schools across the country pushed back start times until the sun came up.

By the summer, public approval had plummeted, and in early October, Congress voted to return to standard time.

A similar reaction occurred when the United States first implemented daylight saving time in 1918, as a way to reduce the demand for electricity use by adding sunlight at the end of the day in response to World War I. (Studies since then have found little or no savings in practice.) The time change was so unpopular that the law was repealed the following year.

“The United States has tried permanent daylight saving time twice before and ended it earlier. The UK tried it once before and ended it early. Russia tried it once, so did India and it ended early,” Klerman said. “I think we should learn from history.”

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