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Down with DST!

It’s Sunday night and I am tired. Why? Because I got up at my usual time of 7am, which registered as 6am, making me feel like I need to stay in bed an hour longer. I didn’t.

Now it is 7:20pm and I just finished dinner. According to my internal clock it is closer to 8:30pm, and this will not bode well for my sleep tonight, having eaten so late. My circadian rhythm has been unnaturally disrupted - for the second time this year. Aaargh!

Yep, I am annoyed at this Daylight Savings Time (DST) twice annual ritual of Spring ahead and Fall back. What nonsense!

To give you some background, this was a national wartime effort to save fuel back in World War I, and it was repealed in 1919, after the war ended. However, some cities kept with it, and others didn’t, which led to confusion. To fix things, the 1966 Uniform Time Act cemented this change twice a year on a national level.

Only it didn’t. 48 states follow the national edict, however Hawaii and Arizona don’t. Neither do some Amish communities and the territories (Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, if you must know) don’t adhere to DST.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of this twice-yearly break to our natural circadian rhythm?

Pros first:

  • DST promotes safety by reducing car accidents, including pedestrians getting hit by a car. It is safer for runners, dog walkers and children playing outside. Apparently, robberies drop 7% overall because street crime tends to occur during evening commuting hours of 5-8pm.

  • DST is good for retail business and golf courses. Later daylight means more shopping. DST is worth $200 - $400 million to the golf industry because of the extended evening hours that golfers can play. Also, according to Chambers of Commerce, which support DST, consumer spending increases during DST. Comparing Phoenix, AZ (which doesn’t follow DST) to Los Angeles, CA shoppers spend 3.5% less in LA after DST ends in the fall.

  • DST promotes outdoor activities after work. The baseball industry is a huge supporter because they can start the games later and get more school-aged children and workers to the ball parks in the evenings.

Now the cons:

  • DST is bad for your health. Change in sleep patterns have negative implications for our health, because this impacts our natural circadian rhythms. When we spring ahead in March each year, the risk of heart attacks increases 10% for the Monday and Tuesday following the time change, according to studies.

  • Some people experience an increase in cluster headaches (a type of migraine) after the fall time change.

  • Researchers are also documenting an increase in auto and workplace accidents during the first week after the Spring time shift. Well, at least you can see them when you hit them. DST also increase the risk of fatality by 5-6.5% in a car accident and results in 30 more deaths as a result annually.

  • In Australia, suicide rates among men increase following the spring DST time change compared to the return to standard time later in the year.

  • DST is responsible for a loss of productivity, especially in the Spring, because “Sleepy Monday” is real. And people also waste time surfing the net when they are tired.

  • DST is also expensive. Just changing the clocks costs $1.7 billion in lost opportunity cost. The Air Transport Association estimates airlines lost an estimated $147 million in 2007 because of confusing time schedules with countries who don’t participate in annual time change.

Currently, 75 countries use DST, 68 have stopped using DST and 106 countries never started.

From a health perspective, the human circadian clock doesn’t adapt well to DST and this affects the majority of the population, by decreasing productivity, increasing susceptibility to illness, decreasing quality of life, and just being plain tired.

The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock and it doesn’t just affect your sleep-wake cycle. It also affects all of the mental and physical systems throughout your body.

The “master clock” is in the brain, specifically in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus. The SCN sends signals out to regulate hormones in the endocrine system and prompts the digestive system to produce proteins. It is highly sensitive to light, the most powerful influence on our circadian rhythms.

During the day we are more alert, active and awake because of this “master clock” and as it gets darker in the evening the SCN signals the production of the hormone melatonin, promoting sleep and drowsiness.

Our circadian rhythm influences our metabolism and weight through blood sugar and cholesterol regulation, as well as our mental health. When out of balance, it can increase our risk of depression or bipolar events, and increase susceptibility to dementia.

When our circadian rhythm is off the body’s systems don’t function well. And therefore, we don’t either. We have enough disruptions in our daily lives, especially this past year, that can adversely affect our health.

I guess that is why I am so unhappy with this forced change in time twice a year that impacts our health negatively with no apparent value to the individual.

Thanks for listening to me rant. And if you need help getting a good night's sleep, for whatever reason. contact me and I will send you a Bedroom Audit checklist to ensure you are doing everything you can to enhance your sleep environment. Sweet dreams!

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