Studies: Daylight Saving Time Is Hazardous to Your Health
This past weekend, we said goodbye to Daylight Saving Time for now.
Those of you who like the idea of a "later sunset" will have to wait until March 13 for DST's return. However, a multitude of American scientists are calling on state and federal officials to permanently end the practices of "springing forward" and "falling back."
According to those researchers and their studies, Daylight Saving Time is hazardous to our health.
You may be asking yourself: How can an extra hour of daylight in the evening be hazardous to my health?
Here are a few of the problems scientists have found Daylight Saving Time to cause in humans.
MORE CAR CRASHES
The number of deadly traffic crashes in the United States increases by six percent every year immediately after the switch from standard time to daylight time. That's according to findings published in the Current Biology. Researchers studied 22 years' worth of data and "observed a modestly increased fatal (motor vehicle accident) risk during the five workdays (Monday to Friday) after DST transition." The findings added that neither the weeks prior nor subsequent to the the DST transition showed increased risks of deadly car crashes when compared to other times of the year.
According to the researchers, the crash risk is "markedly increased" during the morning hours. That, they say, is the result of less light, as well as altered circadian patterns and sleep loss. The risk remains elevated during the afternoon hours, but the risk during those hours is much lower.
Meanwhile, the researchers found that the switch back to standard time from Daylight Saving Time has no overall effect on Daylight Saving Time risk.
If you've ever pulled shift work, you know how challenging it can be wake up in the dark and go to sleep when it's light outside. One study suggests that Daylight Saving Time gives everyone a taste of an abnormal sleep schedule.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Daylight Saving Time throws off people's circadian rhythms, causing sleep loss and sleep debt. That's because the extra daylight we get in the evening makes it more difficult for people to go to sleep, costing people precious snooze time.
Washington University professor Erik Herzog explained it this way to campus publication The Source:
Your biological clock, which controls your daily rhythms in things like sleep and wake, eating and fasting, interprets light in the morning as sunrise, and advances your wake up time. Evening light tells your biological clock to wake up later the next morning, making it more difficult to live without an alarm clock.
Sleep depravation comes with even more health impacts.
IMPARED JUDGMENT AND MOOD SWINGS
Sleep depravation, the JCSM study notes, impacts the operation of the frontal lobe and could lead to "impaired judgement and decision-making capacity." Furthermore, the study notes that transitions into and out of Daylight Saving Time "have been associated with sleep disruption, mood disturbances, and suicide."
Daylight Saving Time might cause the "big one."
The JCSM study found that the yearly shift from standard to Daylight Saving Time is associated with an increase of heart attacks, strokes, and "hospital admissions due to the occurrence of acute atrial fibrillation." According to the study, the reason for this is the time change throwing off people's circadian rhythms and causing sleep depravation. This, in turn, can alter genes, "increase production of inflammatory markers," and lead to higher heart rate and blood pressure.
The study also notes that the "spring forward" is associated with an uptick in emergency room visits and repeat medical visits, as well as missed doctor's appointments.
BUS STOP PROBLEMS
One of the reasons the United States abandoned its experiment with permanent Daylight Saving Time in 1974 was because of an uptick in pedestrian crashes involving school-aged children. At least six Florida school-aged children's deaths were attributed to the fact that they left home for school in dark conditions. That stat, as well as persistent lobbying from the education community, helped sway the Nixon Administration to end permanent DST. When Congress considered expanding DST to its current March-to-November format, the national Parent Teacher Association lobbied against the change.
Right now, Louisiana is one of 17 states with a law on the books that would switch the state to permanent Daylight Saving Time if Congress ever gives the okay for them to do so. If that change were to ever occur, Louisiana residents would never see a sunrise earlier than 7 a.m. or a sunset earlier than 6 p.m. Meanwhile, only two have passed legislation advocating for permanent standard time.
Want more Daylight Saving Time stats and facts? Here's a handy little video summing up the pros and cons of DST.
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