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The Sunshine Protection Act may be detrimental to health in the long-run

Moving clocks forward an hour during daylight saving time disrupts people’s schedules by throwing them out of synchronicity.

Passengers on the five-hour bus journey either use it to take in some of the sights of Hong Kong or get some much-needed sleep — © AFP Bertha WANG
Passengers on the five-hour bus journey either use it to take in some of the sights of Hong Kong or get some much-needed sleep — © AFP Bertha WANG

In many parts of the world, clocks are adjusted to across seasons, such as British Summer Time and Daylight Savings Time. Each time these adjustments happen, there are annual debates, with advocates for and against.

The idea of ‘Daylight Saving Time’ (DST), where clocks are set ahead one hour in early spring and set back one hour in the autumn, was first introduced in Europe in 1916. This happened at a time when Germany, then still at war, was trying to reduce consumption of coal so it could be used for its weapon factories. Likewise, British Summer Time was first established by the Summer Time Act 1916. For the U.S., this occurred two years later, with the Standard Time Act of 1918. Under the Canadian Constitution, laws related to timekeeping are a provincial and territorial matter.

Should clocks continue to be changed or is it preferable to leave clocks set? For those who make the case against the leaving time unaltered, it is maintained that staying on daylight saving time could disrupt the body’s natural cycle, leading to sleep and hormone regulation issues, and increase health risks such as heart attacks, stroke, and drowsy driving.

Studies suggest that adolescents and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of daylight saving time, as their brain delays the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and decreased daytime performance.

Further research links the transition to daylight saving time with higher rates of depression and suicide, particularly in areas with limited daylight hours during the winter months, and it can have a negative impact on public safety, leading to an increase in accidents and workplace injuries.

The debate surrounding the biannual time change gained particular attention in the U.S. in 2023, following the Senate’s unanimous decision in March to permanently establish daylight saving time.

The Sunshine Protection Act intends to eliminate the switch between standard and daylight saving time, favouring evening light throughout the year.

Information provided by TotalShape.com to Digital Journal, suggests there are health implications of staying on daylight saving time. The Sunshine Protection Act could be detrimental for health in the long run:

It disrupts the body’s internal schedule

Moving clocks forward an hour during daylight saving time disrupts people’s schedules by throwing them out of synchronicity with the sun’s natural cycle. This has significant biological consequences, as humans have evolved to rely on the daily cycle. This cycle regulates various functions in our bodies, such as sleep and hormone release, with morning light serving as a crucial wake-up signal. By altering how we count time, we are effectively choosing whether to stick with the natural rhythm we have evolved with or change it.

It can result in decreased daytime performance in teenagers

Permanent daylight saving time could deprive children of a crucial wake-up signal making them have less sleep than they require. Adolescents and teenagers are especially vulnerable to the effects of daylight saving time, as during puberty, the brain delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that signals the body to sleep, by an hour or two. In turn, this can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and decreased performance in school and extracurricular activities.

It increases health risks

Scientific studies have linked the switch to daylight saving time with sleep loss, heart attacks, and an increased risk of hospital mortality following a stroke. Studies conducted in 2018 and 2019 indicate that living on the late sunset side of a time zone border negatively affects people’s health and sleep resulting in the rise in health risks. Additionally, the time mismatch caused by dark mornings and light evenings can lead to drowsy driving, which could contribute to accidents.

It increases depression and suicide rates

Some studies have linked the transition to daylight saving time with higher rates of depression and suicide, particularly in areas with limited daylight hours during the winter months. The disruption to sleep patterns and the sudden change in daylight hours can be difficult for some people to adjust to, leading to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. In the most extreme cases it may even result in suicide.

It has a negative impact on public safety

Some experts argue that daylight saving time can have a negative impact on public safety, particularly during the darker winter months. With fewer hours of daylight, there may be an increase in accidents and crime. As we already mentioned, the sudden change in sleep patterns can make people drowsy and less alert, leading to an increase in traffic accidents. There has also been a reported rise in workplace injuries when people are asked to perform in a sleep deprived state.

On the other hand, advocates of permanent daylight saving time also argue it has its own benefits and some similar issues are highlighted, including decreased crime, less frequent traffic incidents, and decreased prevalence of seasonal depression.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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