Most Americans will be springing their clocks one hour forward when daylight saving time begins on Sunday, March 13. But is it even helpful for us?
There are some obvious drawbacks to losing an hour of sleep. One of the most impactful is the effect it has on our internal clock. According to Dr. Seema Khosla, Medical Director for the North Dakota Center for Sleep, changing the clock “puts us out of alignment with our natural circadian rhythm.”
“You know, all of a sudden, we’re changing our time by an hour right?” she explains. “It’s darker more in the morning and it’s later in the evening and that kind of disrupts our normal, our body’s natural circadian cycle.”
Missing out on some sleep can also be dangerous.
On the Monday after we lose an hour of sleep, there are higher incidences of car crashes, Dr. Khosla notes. A 2020 study found that after springing our clocks forward, the risk of a fatal traffic accident in the U.S. rose by 6%.
Dr. Koshla adds that heart attacks and strokes are more common on the Monday after daylight saving time begins as well. Studies have shown a small increase in heart attacks after the start of daylight saving time in March, followed by a small decrease in November when the clocks change again, Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern, wrote in a 2020 blog.
There are some benefits, though, to the time change. For example, we’ll have more hours of daylight.
Dr. Beth Verdone of CVPH in Plattsburgh, New York, says that 5 to 15% of the world’s population deals with seasonal affective disorder. People experience fatigue, social withdrawal and low energy most days in autumn and winter, and the extra hour of daylight when most people are coming home from school or work is good for the body.
“[It] helps our bodies to produce serotonin, which is involved in the sleep-wake cycle. It helps to promote the wake portion, making you feel alert and calm and your best. It also promotes the production of vitamin D in your body, which is really important for both physical and mental health and optimizing your overall wellbeing.”
The extra daylight also means you’ll have more hours of daylight after work or school — if you’re on a traditional morning-to-evening schedule — to enjoy. It’s great for businesses that you may spend money at, too.
Michael Downing, a professor at Tufts University, explained in 2015 that the Chamber of Commerce “understood something very early on: If you give workers daylight, when they leave their jobs, they are much more apt to stop and shop on their way home.”
According to Time, the Chamber of Commerce was the most prominent lobbyist group for daylight saving time in the 1960s when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act and prompted the changing of our clocks.
Not a fan of daylight saving time? Neither are two states — Arizona and Hawaii — and countless lawmakers throughout the country. Since 2015, at least 350 bills and resolutions regarding daylight saving have been introduced in nearly all states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.