The aggravating practice of changing our clocks every few months started during World War I, over one hundred years ago. It was created as a way for the United States to save power and fuel and enhance the economy by spurring consumer shopping in the evening.
The practice was halted after the war but was resumed in 1966 after the passage of the ‘Uniform Time Act.” This clock changing madness is part of our tradition of switching from standard time to daylight-saving time. The country will remain in daylight-saving time until the first Sunday of November when we “fall back” to standard time.
It has survived throughout the years despite intense opposition. Last year, a CBS News/YouGov poll found that only 21% of Americans liked the current system of switching between standard time and daylight-saving time every few months.
This opposition is understandable as few Americans want to lose an hour of sleep. Americans already do not sleep enough, and the time change makes the sleep deficit even worse. It is also difficult for people to get their “body clocks” adjusted to the change. Experts note that the adjustment may take days, weeks or even months for some people.
It is much better to “fall back” in November and gain an hour of sleep versus “spring forward” and lose an hour of sleep in March. However, any change to our “body clocks,” can result in severe health problems. According to Phyllis Zee, M.D. PhD., Chief of Sleep Medicine, Department of Neurology, Northwestern Medicine, transitioning to daylight-saving time is “associated with adverse health consequences.”
These negative health consequences were verified in a 2008 study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, which identified an increase in heart attacks in the three days following the implementation of daylight-saving time. Other health issues include a 6% increase in fatal car accidents, an 8% increase in strokes, and an 11% rise in “depressive episodes.”
In 2009, a study was done by researchers at Michigan State University for the Journal of Applied Psychology. It noted that daylight-saving time also led to added workplace injuries.
With the loss of sleep and multiple negative health consequences, it is no surprise that 79% of the CBS News/YouGov poll recipients supported “locking the clock.” Among the alternatives, 46% preferred year-round daylight-saving time while 33% wanted permanent standard time.
The arguments for permanent daylight-saving time include more sunlight hours in the evening, allowing for increased exercise and entertainment activities. Those who prefer year-round standard time like the daylight in the early morning hours, especially for those families with young children in school.
In addition, permanent standard time would align our schedule with the “sun’s day and night cycle.” According to Dr. Zee, “If we adopt permanent standard time, our internal clocks will more likely be in sync with the rotation of the Earth, seasonal changes and the sun clock.”
Last year, a proposal to make daylight-saving time permanent passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. This is one of the few issues that united both Republicans and Democrats. Nonetheless, the U.S. House refused to consider the legislation and it died.
This year, the bill called “The Sunshine Protection Act” was introduced again by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). According to Rubio, the biennial practice of “falling back” and “springing forward” is “antiquated” and “stupid.” He said, “I hope we can finally get this done” a sentiment echoed by millions of Americans.
To promote his legislation, Senator Rubio’s office issued a press release highlighting some of the reasons why our country should make daylight-saving time permanent. The potential positive effects include reducing childhood obesity, benefitting the agricultural economy, and reducing energy usage.
Once again, the bill has bipartisan support. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said it was time “to stop the twice-a-year time-change madness.” In Wyden’s view, “springing forward and falling back year after year only creates unnecessary confusion while harming Americans’ health and our economy.”
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) believes our country should make daylight-saving time permanent because of “the public safety improvements, economic benefits, and the wellbeing of the American people.” U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) stated that the twice a year practice of switching our time schedules is “inconvenient,” “entirely unnecessary” and an “antiquated practice.”
Of course, these political leaders are correct, interrupting our sleep schedules is both unnecessary and harmful to our health. However, the last time the country experimented with permanent daylight-saving time, it was cut short. In 1974, Congress voted to end permanent daylight-saving time because of concerns from parents that traffic accidents would increase in the early morning hours as young drivers commuted to school in the dark.
Since then, the mood of the country has clearly changed as approximately 450 bills have been introduced in state legislatures to switch to permanent daylight-saving time if Congress passes a bill allowing such a change. Currently, Hawaii and Arizona are the only two states that do not switch to daylight-saving time and remain in standard time year-round.
It is now incumbent on the American people to contact their senators and representatives in Washington D.C. and demand support for this legislation. Previous efforts by Rubio and others have failed because similar legislation was not even given a hearing in Congress.
Hopefully, this bill will pass the U.S. Senate and move over to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it will receive overwhelming support. A bill approved by Congress and strongly supported by the American people will still need to be signed by President Joe Biden to become law.
It is time for common sense to prevail and for the “Sunshine Protection Act” to become law in our country. This is a rare issue that can unite an overwhelming majority of Americans, but to succeed, we need to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill.
Photo: Sleep Foundation
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