Multiple states have mobilized their #LocktheClock forces to put an end to biannual time changes. Last year California passed Proposition 7, making Daylight Saving Time year-round and permanent. Other states who have proposed legislation include the following:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Some states had put forth legislation to be on Atlantic Standard Time, a time zone one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time that essentially puts them on year-round Daylight Saving Time. These include Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Multiple health risks have been cited in scientific literature during the “Spring Forward” and are cited below, including car accidents, heart attacks and workplace injuries.
Dr. Paul Kalekas, an Internal Medicine and Attending Physician at Valley Hospital Medical Center who has practiced in Nevada for years, states, “It’s time this gets done.”
Nevada’s original bill failed to pass in Congress a few years back so he and other physicians are working to resubmit legislation.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced the Sunshine Protection Act to make daylight savings time the new, permanent standard time. States with areas exempt from daylight savings time may choose the standard time for those areas.
However critics worry that states choosing their own time may disrupt the time zone uniformity.
So how did we end up here in the first place?
History of Daylight Saving Time
This ritual began in ancient civilizations, when daily schedules would be adjusted to the change in daylight. Later Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay for Parisians entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” in 1784 explaining how less candles could be used if people woke up earlier, making more use of natures early light.
Although other countries adopted Daylight Saving Time before the US, such as Germany in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was the first to sign it into law in 1918 to conserve coal during the Great War. It was eventually repealed, though a handful of states maintained it. In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt, again to assist the conservation needed for the war efforts, made “Daylight Saving Time” year round, calling it “War Time”. After the war, however, no federal law maintained the time change and states chose to do what they wished. The Uniform Time Law of 1966 attempted to unite the states in this effort and the law, signed by President Lydon B. Johnson, decreed Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. States had the right to vote to exempt themselves. By 2007, the Energy Policy Act, created in 2005 declared that Daylight Saving time begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November. Some states, including Arizona and Hawaii, do not convert to DST.
What are the risks to Daylight Saving Time start?
Now besides the groaning that occurs each week when we “lose” an hour at night of sleep, concerns have risen in the scientific community regarding health risks. These include headaches, workplace injuries, car accidents and heart attacks to name a few.
A study from the University of Colorado a few years back found a spike in car accidents the first week after Daylight Savings Time change. Apparently drivers did worse with one hour less of sleep that those comfortable with their routine prior to the time change.
In 2014 a different study from the same university found heart attack risk to spike 25% the following Monday after the “spring forward” but fell to almost normal when the clocks fell back in the Fall.
An additional study in Chronobiology International found IVF success rates drop during this time in women, who had a previous miscarriage.
Studies citing health risks associated with “Spring Forward” of daylight saving time include the following:
- Car accidents: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199604043341416
- Heart Attacks: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc0807104
- Workplace injuries: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/apl9451317.pdf
- Suicide: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00331.x
- Pregnancy loss and fertility: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07420528.2017.1279173
- Depression: https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2017/05000/Daylight_Savings_Time_Transitions_and_the.7.aspx
Now with electricity, batteries, generators, and charged mobile devices the need to change the clocks to conserve energy isn’t as urgent as it once was. However to minimize the health risks, I, each year, suggest the following:
- Prepare for the time change before it happens. Wake up 10 -20 minutes early a few days before the change so that the one hour shift isn’t too drastic for our delicate circadian rhythms
- Continue your exercise each morning (and don’t skip it the Monday morning after DST) so your body gets accustomed to the adrenaline surge and you’ll be able to maintain your morning alertness despite the time change.
- Eat a balanced breakfast. You should be doing this as well year round but remember to include protein and complex carbs as energy sources.
- Make use of natural sunlight to help wake you up. Just as we benefit from the moonlight to help us fall asleep, our body needs sunlight to wake up. Take a short walk each morning to get some brisk exercise in and sunlight at the same time.
- Don’t stress about the time change. You’ll build it up bigger than it has to be and anxiety stresses the heart.
- Go to bed a little earlier Sunday night.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.