The origins of daylight saving time started when Benjamin Franklin first proposed the idea in an essay in 1784, but the concept didn’t catch on until an entomologist from New Zealand wanted more daylight in order to enjoy activities that cannot be done at dark. By WWI, it was designed to conserve electricity through the war and it became official law in the US in 1996.
The Department of Transportation says daylight savings time brings many positives to us by way of saving energy in homes and businesses. It saves lives and prevents traffic injuries due to more people running errands during daylight, and even crime is reduced.
But times are changing. Now, sleep experts are calling for the end of daylight saving time.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a position statement urging for the elimination of daylight saving time and a permanent switch to standard time for various reasons, but largely due to how standard time aligns more closely aligns with our body’s internal clock.
“Permanent, year-round standard time is the best choice to most closely match our circadian sleep-wake cycle,” Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, pulmonology, sleep medicine and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, said in a press release. “Daylight saving time results in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, disrupting the body’s natural rhythm.”
The AASM outlined a few other concerns for moving to standard time including health concerns such as the increased risk of car accidents, “cardiovascular events,” and even mood disturbances; all of which have been cited to daylight saving time.
The position, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, said seasonal time changes need to go.
“Daylight saving time is less aligned with human circadian biology – which, due to the impacts of the delayed natural light/dark cycle on human activity, could result in circadian misalignment, which has been associated in some studies with increased cardiovascular disease risk, metabolic syndrome and other health risks,” researchers wrote.
“It is, therefore, the position of AASM that these seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of a fixed, national, year-round standard time.”
AASM President Dr. Kannan Ramar said that the organization will be pushing for legislative change.
“There is ample evidence of the negative, short-term consequences of the annual change to daylight saving time in the spring,” Ramar said. “Because the adoption of permanent standard time would be beneficial for public health and safety, the AASM will be advocating at the federal level for this legislative change.”
While more than a dozen organizations stand behind AASM, not everyone is convinced. Phillip Gehrman, an associate profession at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Washington Post that more research needs to be done before making a permanent switch.
“There’s so much variability in our schedules, and in our circadian rhythms as well, that a switch in either direction is going to help some people and hurt others,” he said. “To me, it’s not a clear, ‘Yes, this is going to benefit way more people than it’s going to hurt.’ I’m just not convinced that we have the science to say that.”
AASM recently conducted a survey in July where 63% of American adults said they were in favor of eliminating seasonal time changes for a fixed time.