Standard or Daylight

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In March of 2022, the US Senate voted unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent. No more “spring forward” or “fall backward.” The American Academy of Sleep Medicine agreed with the permanent part, but not the Daylight Saving part. The AASM issued a statement explaining why, spelling out the potential health risks of springing forward.

Poor sleep is a common problem of older people. The symptoms include mood fluctuations, depression, lowered resistance to pain, and heart disease. Doctors prescribe various medications for insomnia and melatonin to treat circadian rhythm disorder. 

Sleep deprivation, Adam Alter, writes in his book, Irresistible, “is rising in the wake of smartphones, e-readers, and other light-emitting devices…the consequence of persistent over- engagement.” It’s no longer a malady of older people, but now a global issue for people of all ages. Pediatricians are recommending over-the-counter melatonin for children who have trouble falling asleep. 

The World Sleep Survey is the largest survey ever done on sleep. I took the survey and the results: Your sleep score is 5.0, which we’re afraid to say is rated as low. As a kid, I was a great sleeper. Looking back, my poor sleeping began when the children were born. It’s nature’s way to make sure mothers are on high alert after giving birth. Is he breathing? Three words that deprive millions of women of much needed sleep. But why are two-thirds of all adults, men and women, struggling to fall or stay asleep? Is Alter correct to rest the blame on our tech habits? Or is moving the clock forward messing with our circadian rhythms? Or both?

Every spring, Tim struggles to adjust to the new time. Losing an hour is a big deal, and he wants to make sure I share in his misery. At book club, days after the Senate voted to go on daylight saving time, women in the group shared their difficulty adjusting to losing an hour. But a few people’s experiences don’t make it so.  

Matthew Walker is a sleep expert. I may listen to Tim and friends with filtered attention, but what Matthew wrote in his book, Why We Sleep, the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span, changed how I think of sleep. The most impactful information is that we can never get back the sleep we lost. Two verifiable consequences of changing the clocks are the spike in automobile accidents and heart attacks on the days after losing an hour’s sleep. Research at the University of Colorado confirmed that fatal car accidents increased by 6 percent in the week following DST. Workplace injuries, strokes, and heart attacks spiked as well.  

Study after study links nighttime light exposure to poor sleeping and other health issues. Even relatively dim light interferes with our circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher, says that “light at night is why so many people don’t get enough sleep and have a higher risk for diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular issues.”

Debating the impact of technology on our sleep is over. What’s not over is whether we add permanent daylight saving time to our sleep issues. The US House of Representatives will decide what to do next. If we believe the experts, we can write our congressional representatives and ask them to vote for the change, but only if it’s to stay on for Standard time. Daylight or Standard, the legislation will go into effect next year if passed by the House and signed by the President.  

Sources: 

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker

Melatonin for Children:  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin/melatonin-for-children

AASM Statement:  https://aasm.org/aasm-statement-senate-daylight-saving-time-sunshine-protection-act/

Contact your Senator:  https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm?OrderBy%253Dstate%2526Sort%253DASC

Contact your Representative:  https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Blue light:  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

Increasing Automobile Accidents:  https://www.healthline.com/health-news/daylight-saving-can-make-driving-less-safe

Philips Seeking Solutions: https://www.usa.philips.com/c-dam/b2c/master/experience/smartsleep/world-sleep-day/2021/philips-world-sleep-day-2021-report.pdf

Evaluation of Traffic Accidents:  https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)31678-1