Daylight-saving time is literally killing us — it's time to end this switch

Daylight-saving time is literally killing us — it's time to end this switch
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Daylight-saving time begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 12.Brian Snyder/Reuters
  • Daylight-saving time in the US begins on Sunday, March 12, 2023 at 2 a.m.

  • Phones and other devices will automatically tick forward one hour, and we'll lose an hour of sleep.

  • Incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and fatal car crashes all spike around the start of DST.

Daylight-saving time is a killer.

The annual ritual in which we "gain" an hour of evening light in the summertime by pushing the clocks forward one hour each spring may seem like a harmless shift.

But every year on the Monday after the switch, hospitals report a 24% spike in heart-attack visits around the US.

Just a coincidence? Probably not.

Doctors see an opposite trend each fall: The day after we turn back the clocks, heart attack visits drop 21% as many people enjoy a little extra pillow time.

"That's how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep," sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of "How We Sleep," previously told Insider.

Daylight-saving time begins Sunday, March 12, 2023 at 2:00AM
iStock; Insider

The reason that springing the clocks forward can kill us comes down to interrupted sleep schedules. This Sunday, March 12, instead of the clock turning from 1:59 to 2:00 a.m. as usual, it will skip an hour and tick forward to 3:00 a.m.

For those asleep in bed at that hour, researchers estimate we'll lose 40 minutes of snooze time because of the clock change. Night-shift workers will get paid only for the seven hours of work they completed instead of their usual eight-hour paycheck, according to federal law.

Over the long haul, interrupted sleep schedules that result from shifting the clocks back and forth twice a year may be bad for our health. Our bodies may not fully recover from the shift for weeks, though the tragic heart attack trend only lasts about a day.

We're also prone to make more deadly mistakes on the roads: Researchers estimate that car crashes in the US caused by sleepy daylight-saving drivers likely cost 30 extra people their lives over the nine-year period from 2002-2011. The problems don't stop there. DST also causes more reports of injuries at work, more strokes, and may lead to a temporary increase in suicides.

Walker said daylight-saving time, or DST, is a kind of "global experiment" we perform twice a year. And the results show just how sensitive our bodies are to the whims of changing schedules: In the fall the shift is a blessing; in the spring it's a fatal curse.

Why we 'save' daylight for later hours

Daylight-saving time was originally concocted as a way to save energy in the evening, and was implemented during World War I in Germany. But more recent research suggests it's probably not saving us any megawatts of power. There is, however, some evidence that extra evening light can reduce crime and increase the time people spend exercising, at least in certain climates.

Hawaii, North Shore of Oahu, Beach, Sunset
Flickr/puuikibeach

Worldwide, fewer than half of all countries participate in a biannual clock-changing ritual.

Not everyone in the US follows it either. Hawaii and Arizona ignore DST and use standard time year-round, since it makes less sense to shift the clocks when you live near the equator, where the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time each day.

Residents and lawmakers in California and Florida have tried (but failed) to ditch the switch too. Voters in the Golden State opted to get rid of the annual clock change in the 2018 midterm elections, and Florida lawmakers enacted the "Sunshine Protection Act" that March, aimed at doing the same thing.

At least thirteen more states have angled to move to year-round DST since then, with similar proposed legislation. But the shift to a permanent daylight-saving-time plan isn't something states can decide for themselves: The measures require a green light from Congress to take effect, something both California and Florida, as well as the others (Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) have yet to receive.

Lawmakers want to 'lock the clocks' this year — but experts say they picked the wrong time

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at the Capitol on January 25, 2023.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is proposing to end standard time forever. Sleep experts say he picked the wrong clock.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

This year, some lawmakers are renewing their push to ditch the switch nationwide. A bipartisan group of eight US Senators reintroduced the "Sunshine Protection Act" earlier this month, a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the entire US.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who introduced the same bill last year, said in a statement "this ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid."

"This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done," he said.

But health and sleep experts say that there's just one problem with the plan. Rubio and his colleagues chose the wrong way to lock the clocks: preferring daylight-saving time over standard — which is the opposite of what Hawaii and Arizona do.

Experts at the Sleep Research Society argue that daylight-saving time delays our bodies' natural melatonin production, making it harder to get to sleep, while standard time (the hours we currently use from fall into spring) would be the better choice for a permanent, year-round clock — because it would allow more people to rise naturally with the sunshine, instead of getting up and toiling in the dark.

"When we saw that, it was kind of an 'oopsie-daisies'" Dr. Akinbolaji Akingbola, a sleep expert at the University of Minnesota Medical School, previously told Insider. "We've all been pretty clear that standard time would be the better choice."

Read the original article on Business Insider