Feeling sluggish? Maybe even exhausted?When the U.S. sprung forward one hour on Sunday, March 12, the nation collectively put itself through what might be considered forced sleep deprivation.U.S. …
Feeling sluggish? Maybe even exhausted?
When the U.S. sprung forward one hour on Sunday, March 12, the nation collectively put itself through what might be considered forced sleep deprivation.
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) wants to make the change permanent, a move doctors say would potentially leave Americans constantly tired and increase the risk of death from heart attack.
SUNNY EVENINGS MEAN LESS SLEEP
When an hour is lost each spring to accommodate Daylight Savings Time, the mornings are darker and sunlight stretches into the evening hours. Work and school schedules, however, do not shift.
The change leaves people with later bedtimes but the same waking hours, leading to possible sleep deprivation that can last much longer than the one hour lost on that Sunday.
Tuberville's Sunshine Protection Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in 2022 but was not brought to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote, argues permanent DST would give the economy a boost as more Americans stay out later and spend more money.
Doctors say those later nights could make many Americans perpetually exhausted. In a nation that has a well-documented sleep problem, the permanent shift to sunny, long-lasting evenings could prove troublesome.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 7% to 19% of adults reportedly do not get enough sleep, 40% reportedly fall asleep during the day at least once a month, and 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.
The annual time shift only seems to aggravate the issue. The short-term acute effects have been well-documented as Americans begin the week with less sleep.
Traffic accidents increase in the first few days after the switch to DST, there has been a documented increase in human error during medical procedures in the week after switching, and there has even been more stock market volatility in the U.S. on the Monday after DST.
The incidents and risk for heart attack, stroke and artrial fibrillation rise significantly after the time change each year too.
A permanent time shift could potentially increase those risks even more.
SOCIAL JET LAG SETS IN
There is evidence that the body does not adjust to DST even after several months.
Dr. Lori Minto, an internist specializing in sleep medicine at Infirmary Health in Fairhope, said a study from the "Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine" shows concern that a permanently delayed sleep phase will perpetuate a discrepancy between our innate biologic clock and the external, environmental clock.
"In other words," Minto said, "Our work and school schedules are not changing with DST, so we risk chronic sleep loss due to our society's early morning social demands.
"This chronic misalignment between the demands of work and school against our innate circadian rhythm is called social jet lag.
"Again, from the journal of clinical sleep medicine, social jet lag has been shown to increase our risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and depression."
FALL BACK FOREVER
Instead of making DST permanent, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Medical Association both favor permanent standard time, which arrives when the clock moves back an hour in the fall.
That schedule preserves morning light, a move that would be more in line with the human body's sleep patterns.
"Light is the most powerful zeitgeber or cue to regulate the circadian rhythm, the rhythm that tells us when to go to sleep and when to wake up," Minto said.
The increase in morning darkness and the increase in evening light, brought on by DST, can delay that rhythm and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
Dr. Kannan Ramar, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has advocated for federal legislative change that adopts standard time, set in the fall, as the permanent schedule in the United States. It is a move he said would be "beneficial for public health and safety."
The Alabama State Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to permanently implement Daylight Savings Time, but that rule won't take effect until legislation is passed at the federal level.