Switching to standard time: the impact on your sleep and health

November 03, 2022 2:00 p.m

Author:
University of Utah Health Communications

Time to go back, which means another hour of sleep. It will get dark earlier, but we will gain an hour of light in the morning. And while the early evening sunset can be terrible, most sleep experts and organizations support keeping standard time constant throughout the year. That’s why.

This is consistent with our circadian biology

Light is a critical synchronizer of our circadian rhythm. This is because our bodies are automatically stimulated and adjusted to the time of the sun. This is optimal for daytime functioning and nighttime sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

Research shows that during Daylight Saving Time (DST), more people are sleepy in the morning and have trouble moving. This is especially problematic for children.

“It’s more difficult for teenagers because their circadian rhythms change during puberty, where they go to bed later and wake up later,” says Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, MPH, DBSM, a clinical psychologist at Behavioral Sleep Medicine at University of Utah Health. “The problem with that is that classes start early, which makes it harder for them to wake up.” But Baron points out that morning light can help their circadian rhythms.

It’s good for your sleep health

Permanent daylight saving time would allow more darkness in the morning and more light at night, which misaligns our circadian rhythm with the environment – meaning we go to bed later and rise earlier than sunrise/sunset due to our daily duties. According to the AASM, evidence shows that the body’s clock does not adjust to daylight saving time for several months. This can potentially cause sleep disruption and lead to chronic sleep loss.

Baron adds that if daylight saving time were permanent, it wouldn’t get up until 9:00 a.m. in Utah some weeks of the year. And in the height of summer, it can push bedtimes later (for adults and children) due to late night sunsets, especially in western time zones.

This poses a risk to public health and safety

According to studies, car accidents and drowsy driving increase at the start of daylight saving time. The transition can also be a health hazard for school-aged children who take the bus and walk or ride to school in the dark. “Permanent daylight saving time can have detrimental effects and serious consequences of missing out on morning light,” Baron says.

Switching between standard time and daylight saving time can increase the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases and Events
  • Hit
  • Mood disorders
  • Sleep disturbance and loss

While most research shows the health impact directly after the transition, there is little evidence of chronic or long-term effects of DST.

It can cause seasonal depression

As the days get darker and shorter, people may experience less energy and become less productive. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is often triggered during the winter months. While symptoms vary, people may have trouble sleeping, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, feel hopeless, or have thoughts of harming themselves. It is important to seek help to help manage and treat the symptoms of SAD.

This is an easier transition for most

Parents can enjoy this time of year – not just for an extra hour of sleep, but also because the transition to standard time doesn’t have to negatively disrupt sleep schedules. “What used to be a 9 p.m. bedtime will now feel like a 10 p.m. bedtime,” Baron says. “More than anything, people get more sleep for a few days.” And research shows a benefit from the time change with fewer heart attacks and car crashes.

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