Okay, here we go again. Sunday at 2 am, clocks “spring” forward by one hour for the start of Daylight Savings Time (DST). Sometime in early November, clocks will gain an hour in a return to Standard Time.
Increasingly, people are asking why. In 2021 the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would do away with the twice-a-year time change and keep the country on the same time all year round. Despite the bipartisan support, the House killed the bill.
Sleep experts generally agree that playing around with the clock is counterproductive. Dr. Pedram Navab, a Los Angeles board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, says there are many health issues connected to the biannual time shift, in particular moving to DST.
“Not only does DST not comport with our natural circadian rhythm, which regulates our wake and sleep cycle, it can cause behavioral and mood disorders, cardiovascular mortality, and increased motor vehicle crashes and other accidents several days after the time change,” Navab told ConsumerAffairs. “Because DST is less aligned with human circadian biology, its delay of natural light increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders and metabolic syndrome.”
Dr. Danielle Kelvas is the chief medical advisor at Sleepline, a website that provides sleep improvement resources. She agrees that when time advances or retreats an hour at a time it’s hard on the human body.
She says there are obvious benefits to staying on one time all year round. However, she says there could also be some drawbacks, including disruptions of circadian rhythms.
“It could also create problems for people who work outdoors, as the amount of daylight would not change with the seasons,” she told us. “Additionally, it would likely disrupt the traditional school and work calendars, as well as other activities that are traditionally associated with specific times of the year.”
Tips for coping
Dr. Peter Polos, sleep medicine specialist at Sleep Number, says the time change is very difficult for many people, citing increases in auto accidents and even more cardiac events. But he offers tips to help people cope when the clocks change.
“These include going to bed 20 to 30 minutes earlier several days in advance of the day of the time change,” he told us. “Similarly, waking up about 20 to 30 minutes earlier helps with this adjustment. I also recommend exposure to daylight as soon as you awaken as this can help reset your internal clock. When you achieve the new schedule, it is best to maintain a regular bedtime and wake time.”
The 2021 Senate bill that would have ended the biannual time change would have kept the U.S. permanently on DST all year round. All three of the sleep experts we consulted suggested that if the country stays on one time, it would be healthier to stay on Standard Time.