The Monday following daylight savings time is usually a noteworthy one. If it’s ‘fall back’, adults and children alike are delighted for an extra hour of sleep or morning cartoons. Or, like today, ‘spring forward’ is seen as the bane of the week, where people struggle to forfeit the hour and re-set their microwaves and car dashboards. At least with technology where it is, mobile phones thankfully automatically adjust their clocks. (So no more excuses for being late to work when 82% of people use cell phones as their alarm—sorry!)
But isn’t time relative? After a week on the new schedule, people readjust and continue on as normal, or so we are told. It’s interesting then how you might not realize how such a small shift can actually impact our overall health.
The initial reason and implementation of daylight savings time was for energy conservation during World War I and has been the standard ever since. But a study as far back as the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that any energy savings by the enactment of DST amounts to about 1% in the spring and fall months. In 2006, another study found similar results stating there is little scientific proof that DST reduces energy use. In fact, it can actually be more wasteful than not.
So, besides the lack of evidence supporting the actual energy savings, how could this be poor for our health? Many chronobiologists state that daylight saving time is effectively destroying our brains. People are essentially being forced into jet-lag and then asked to drive, unusually groggy and on streets which are darker to them than normal, to work. The Journal of Accident Analysis & Prevention studies have concluded not having daylight savings time could save up to 366 lives as accidents rise the few days after ‘spring forward’.
Even heart attacks spike according to a study in The American Journal of Cardiology. Having even one less hour of sleep allows less time for our bodies to recover and can increase stress. The opposite is true when ‘fall back’ occurs so with six months until ‘fall back’ we should all be looking forward to our time refund.