Millions of us may lose sleep when the clocks “go up” one hour this Sunday, as most states switch to daylight saving time. The change makes the time darker in the morning and extends the light in the evening. And some legislators want to make the light permanent, to avoid the interruption of constant change.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who introduced the Solar Protection Act of 2023, calls the ritual of changing our clocks twice a year “sense” and “stupid.” Joining the bipartisan group of senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Edward Markey (D-Mass).
Similarly, the Senate proposed in 2022, but it did not get enough support in the House of Representatives. Now, Sen. Rubio is trying again, pointing to the potential health and financial benefits. The key point is, more light in the evening can motivate people to go out and spend more money in shops and restaurants.
The health impact is more complicated than it seems. But in recent years, the springtime change has been linked to an increase in cardiac events, possibly due to disturbed sleep. One study found an increase in hospitalizations for atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia, in the spring days after the transition to daylight saving time.
“I was very surprised,” researcher and study author Dr. Jay Chudow, a cardiologist at Montefiore Health, told NPR last year. “It’s a one-hour change,” he says, but this shows how sensitive our bodies can be to disruptions in circadian rhythms.
Many doctors and scientists agree that time stops changing twice a year, but oppose laws that would make daylight saving time permanent. However, the Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Medical Association favor long-term exposure to morning light.
“Human circadian rhythms are closely linked to the rising and setting of the sun,” explains Jennifer Martin, a psychologist who is also president of the AASM.
And it says our internal clock is not so aligned in daylight saving time. “The morning light is great,” he said. The best time to restore health and wellness is “perpetual, year-round,” says Martin.
Martin treats patients with sleep problems. “When I work with people with insomnia, we struggle very much to get up at the right time in the morning. That is much easier when there is light in the morning,” explains Martin.
“The Senate has this back,” said Dr. Pedra Navab is a neurologist and sleep specialist in Los Angeles. “The natural daily cycle of light and darkness,” he says, “is really the most powerful cue that we have to shape our body clock.”
Day saving day increases exposure to light in the evening, explains Navab, which makes it harder to sleep at night. In April, he plans to go to the Capitol on the hill with sponsorship from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to stop the Sun Protection Act.
The ASSM points to an “abundance of accumulating evidence” linking the transition from standard daylight saving time to an increase in cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and stroke. For example, a study by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, published in Current Biology in 2020, found an increase in fatal car accidents in the week after the spring-forward time change. But their solution is a permanent measure of time.
In conjunction with the boom in spending on daylight savings time, the nation’s Treasury Subcommittee of Congress reported last year that it expects to see an uptick in spending as the clocks advance in the spring. Back in the 1980s, the National Association of Convenience Stores lobbied to extend daylight saving time for a longer period of the year. “When people come home from work and have more time in the day they tend to be more active,” Lyle Beckwith of NACS told NPR last year. “They go to sporting events. They play softball. They golf. They barbecue,” Beckwith said. And that translates into more shopping available to everyone from convenience water, beer, or sports drinks, or collecting coals.
So there seems to be a divide between what is most likely for our health (standard permanent time) versus what is good for the economy (day saving permanent time).
Last year, lawmakers in the House balked at taking up the solar protection act, citing higher priorities. And, with inflation, a huge budget deficit and the war in Ukraine, this year could see a repeat of that.
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