When Cher sang, “If I could turn back time,” she wasn’t necessarily referring to the tradition of turning back our clocks every Fall. As most of the Northern Hemisphere prepares to make the time change this Sunday there are experts who say changing the clocks back and forth twice annually disrupts our schedules, particularly our sleep patterns.
According to USA Today, this year daylight saving time ends on Sunday November at 2 a.m. Many states and territories have exempted themselves from the practice, including Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona.
In March, the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. The bill would extend daylight saving time from the usual March to November to the entire year. If it does become law, it means the clocks will not change after the spring forward in March 2023. As of today, the House and President Biden have not discussed or voted on the bill since the Senate passage.
The Sleep Foundation explains that if the bill were to pass in the next year, as it is written, permanent daylight saving time would take effect November 5, 2023. Until the bill or another like it passes, however, we will be sticking with clock changes twice a year. So, most of us will turn our clocks back an hour this Sunday.
The Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the time change, says that the practice of daylight saving time saves energy, prevents traffic accidents and reduces crime. However, many experts argue that the changing back and forth has potentially serious side effects on our health.
“I care about all costs and all benefits ─ economic, health, safety, energy,” says Steve Calandrillo, a law professor at the University of Washington, who is in favor of keeping daylight saving time year-round. “But in my opinion, the public safety and crime reduction positives outweigh the negatives. The negatives, like the winter morning darkness impacts on school children, can be mitigated through later school start times.”
According to a report, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) said the U.S. should eliminate daylight saving time and stick to a year-round standard time.
There are several reasons for the AASM stance. Disrupting our natural sleep cycle can trigger depression, mood swings, and even an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as strokes. A report published in 2019 in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that the risk of heart attacks was higher in the weeks following both the spring and fall time transitions among the 100,000 people surveyed.
“There’s really no reason we should continue to do this back and forth,” said Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, of the NASA Ames Research Center Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory and a consultant to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s Public Safety Committee. “The negative health consequences and the negative effect on multivehicular crashes in the spring are just not worth it.”
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC-based neuropsychologist and the founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, offers these tips to make the most out of the time change this weekend:
- Avoid alcohol. When the clocks turn back in the fall, many bars stay open an additional hour, which could cause young people to overindulge and regret the boozing on Sunday. “Even with just a one-hour clock change, our body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off making our brains a bit confused,” says Hafeez. “Alcohol only heightens this effect.”
- Enjoy physical activity during the daytime. Hafeez says that the more time you spend outdoors in the sunshine, the less sluggish you will feel when the clocks fall back. This is an ideal time to take a power walk, or to look forward to early morning runs when the time changes. Hafeez advises knowing what time of day you feel most energized and aligning your workouts accordingly.
- Don’t sleep in. Instead, go to bed an hour earlier and allow extra time to wind down before going to sleep. You really should stick to the same wake-up time, says Hafeez.
- Avoid watching the news before bedtime. Any mental stimulation — especially watching the news! — can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try listening to tranquil music or guided meditations instead.
- Consider taking Monday off. Hafeez says that people who know from experience that they are negatively affected by the time change should relax on Monday, if possible, and make that day all about self-care. Wake up early to take advantage of the morning light, enjoy a healthy breakfast, get a massage, or catch up on reading. “People can feel the effects of the clock change for up to three weeks,” she says. “Taking a day off to focus on your own well-being can be a nice post time change ritual.”
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