Permanent daylight saving time may be harmful to our health, experts say

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Sen. Marco Rubio files bill to make daylight saving time permanent nationwide

Under the Sunshine Protection Act of 2019, Americans would set their clocks ahead one hour and keep them there, creating an extra hour of sunlight even in winter.

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The United States Senate recently unanimously passed a bipartisan bill known as the Sunshine Protection Act to make daylight saving time (DST) permanent, but the move may be more harmful to our health, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. 

“Of the three choices—permanent daylight saving time, permanent standard time or where we are now, which is switching between the two—I think permanent DST is the worst solution,” said Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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Our circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our “internal clocks,” are connected to the sun, but that is more in sync with permanent standard time, said Dr. Muhammad Adeel Rishi, pulmonologist and sleep physician at Indiana University. 

Identify your triggers. Triggers vary by individual, but they may include certain people, places, things, foods (caffeine is often a culprit), activities, times of the year, or times of day. 

Identify your triggers. Triggers vary by individual, but they may include certain people, places, things, foods (caffeine is often a culprit), activities, times of the year, or times of day. 
(iStock)

So when we advance our clocks one hour ahead, our internal clocks don’t adapt to the time difference, so daylight saving time is like “permanent social jet lag,” per the report. 

The paper noted too much evening light has also been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, but these studies don’t prove less light in the morning causes the chronic medical problems, only that the medical issues are linked to it.

“It is the position of the AASM [American Academy of Sleep Medicine], that the U.S. should eliminate seasonal time changes in favor of a national, fixed, year-round time,” according to a position paper of the professional sleep society.

“Current evidence best supports the adoption of year-round standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.” 

Electric Time technician Dan LaMoore puts a clock hand onto a 1000-lb., 12-foot diameter clock constructed for a resort in Vietnam, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Medfield, Mass. 

Electric Time technician Dan LaMoore puts a clock hand onto a 1000-lb., 12-foot diameter clock constructed for a resort in Vietnam, Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Medfield, Mass. 
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

But “springing forward” does have some advantages that people enjoy, in part because the summer and spring evenings have more daylight, which are good for business and for some people’s social calendar, according to the report.

“Day after day of eating at the wrong time, being active at the wrong time, sleeping at the wrong time, build up” and can lead to long-term negative health consequences, says Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, circadian researcher and consultant to the AASM’s public safety committee.

A recent sleep study, which randomized 20 healthy people to sleep in dim light versus moderate lighting, showed a single night of light exposure increased insulin resistance and the heart rates of the participants the following day compared to those who slept in an environment with dim light, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 

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One of the biggest objections to permanent DST is because the winter sun rises later, schoolchildren often will be walking to school in the dark, the Journal noted.

For example in certain parts of Indiana where the sun doesn’t rise after 9 a.m., Rishi warned: “You’re basically putting these kids two hours off from their circadian biology.” 

UNITED STATES - MAY 26: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walks to the Senate subway after a vote in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. 

UNITED STATES – MAY 26: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walks to the Senate subway after a vote in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. 
(Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The United States government has been unsuccessful at least three times to make DST permanent, with the most recent attempt in 1974 when the country was on DST for one year before it went back to the status quo, per the Journal.

Congress adopted daylight saving time originally as a wartime measure, but the bill is now headed to the House of Representatives, and they are being cautious on whether it will have enough support to pass, according to The Hill. 

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“Different members have articulated a different perspective. We’ll have to come to some consensus. We were unexpectedly sent this bill by the Senate. Now, we’re trying to absorb it,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, told the Hill.

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