The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published a new position paper this week concluding that seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of standard time: The brain wakes up faster when exposed to morning light and daily processes get underway quicker.
“Permanent standard time helps synchronize the body clock with the rising and setting of the sun,” said Dr. James A. Rowley, president of the AASM. “This natural synchrony is optimal for healthy sleep, and sleep is essential for health, mood, performance and safety.”
A Monmouth University poll last year found that only 13% of Americans wanted year-round standard time and 44% wanted to keep daylight saving permanent.
Efforts have been made recently at the federal level to make daylight saving permanent, but without success. The Senate approved the “Sunshine Protection Act” last year, but the bill gained no momentum in the House of Representatives.
The idea of seasonal time changes dates back centuries, but it was only enacted in the U.S. in 1918 as a way to conserve energy by having an extra hour of daylight in late spring, summer and early fall. President Richard Nixon signed a law creating permanent daylight saving time in 1974, but it was soon scrapped, because darker mornings were seen as a safety hazard during commuting hours, especially for children going to school.
All states except Hawaii and Arizona have seasonal time changes. In New Jersey, state Sen. Shirley Turner has introduced several versions of a bill in recent years that would make daylight saving permanent, but it has not gotten much momentum.
“Our circadian rhythm is designed to be exposed to bright light when we get up in the morning, and it’s supposed to start getting darker in the evening, causing dim light melatonin onset, which for most people starts around 7 p.m.,” says said Dr. Adrian Pristas, director of sleep medicine at Hackensack Meridian. “If we have too much bright light in the evening, our body won’t produce the melatonin it needs to fall asleep in a timely manner.”
The brain wakes up faster when exposed to morning light, and daily processes get underway more quickly. Disrupting that rhythm can lead to sleep disturbances, fatigue and a general lack of energy, said Dr. Thomas Kilkenny, director of the Institute for Sleep Medicine at Northwell Staten Island University Hospital.
A 2014 study by cardiologists found a 21% drop in the number of heart attacks on the Tuesday after returning to standard time in November compared with other Tuesdays during the year. It also found a 25% jump in the number of heart attacks occurring the Monday after daylight saving springs forward in March.
“Shifting to permanent daylight saving time in the winter would result in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, leading to misalignment between the body’s natural rhythm and the timing of routine activities, like going to work or to school,” Kilkenny said.