The end of Daylight Savings time here in Australia is a sombre affair. Aside from the panic that comes with having to open multiple tabs and ask numerous people whether we are turning our clocks forward or backwards, the fact remains that the next morning we wake up and have only a sliver of daylight to make the most of. For those who have now returned to the office and dreaded work commute, it means sitting at your desk, watching the sun rise and fall from your cubicle, only to trudge home in the darkness and wonder where the day went. The end of daylight savings is remarkably different to its beginning, which arrives like a gift stretching out from the calendar, full of promise and anticipation, crackling with the energy of a high school crush. It makes you wonder: why not just exist in that time permanently?
It’s exactly this question that those in the US are now asking, with the Senate looking to put an end to the incessant clock-changing. Legislation was passed unanimously to do away with the biannual springing forward and falling back that most of us around the world have come to despise, with the Senate voting in favour of making daylight saving time permanent. If the bill happens to pass in the House and is signed by President Biden, it will come into effect in November of 2023.
In what has to be the most fitting name for a bill ever proposed in Senate, the Sunshine Protection Act, seeks to end the practice of turning clocks back one hour to standard time every November, allowing daylight saving time (which begins in March in the US) to become a permanent fixture throughout the year. As Senator Marco Rubio said, “One has to ask themselves after a while: Why do we keep doing it? The majority of American people’s preference is just to stop the back-and-forth changing.”
The ritual of daylight savings has existed in the US since at least 1918, but many have come to blame it for everything from depression to traffic accidents and even the demise of youth sporting events. To keep daylight savings time around sounds like a dream, but not everyone is convinced. According to sleep scientists and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, daylight saving time could lead to considerable issues when it comes to public health.
While the New York Times notes that no study has definitely proved that standard time is best for human health, it cites Dr Karin Johnson, a member of the board of directors of Save Standard Time and an associate professor of neurology at UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate, who points to overwhelming scientific evidence that it’s a bad idea.
“Sleep scientists point out that standard time – winter time – is more closely aligned with the sun’s progression. They say that bright mornings help people wake up and stay alert, while dark nights allow for the production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep. When it is too light at night, it can be hard to fall asleep. When it is too dark in the morning, it can be hard to wake up,” notes the publication. This could lead to complications like chronic sleep deprivation, which has been linked to a range of health conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Light cues generated by the sun also help to regulate metabolism, insulin production and hormones.
Whether the switch becomes permanent in the US remains to be seen, but with the scientific evidence suggesting that no matter how much of a pain switching the clocks might be come daylight savings, it might just be in our best interest to protect standard time.