In the United States, daylight saving time (DST) requires that clocks be set one hour ahead in March and one hour back in November. But in new findings published in a JAMA Neurology commentary, experts now suggest that DST be stopped because of its negative effects on the brain, reports Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s VUMC Reporter.
Sleep experts from VUMC reached this conclusion after reviewing large epidemiological studies about the health implications of making these seasonal adjustments to time. (According to specialists, DST gradually eliminates the bright morning light humans need to synchronize our biological clocks.)
“People think the one-hour transition is no big deal, that they can get over this in a day but what they don’t realize is their biological clock is out of sync,” said Beth Ann Malow, MD, a professor of neurology and pediatrics in the sleep disorders division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It’s not one hour twice a year. It’s a misalignment of our biologic clocks for eight months of the year.”
DST greatly affects brain functions such as sleep-wake pattern and daytime alertness, Malow explains. While some people may be able to adjust quickly, others are more sensitive to these changes. Furthermore, the transition impacts children with autism for weeks or months, Malow notes.
Researchers also cited reports that link transitioning to DST with increased risk of ischemic stroke and heart attack, negative effects on one’s well-being, poor quality of sleep, shorter sleep duration (adults lost on average 15 to 20 minutes of shut-eye) and slower responses to visual stimuli.
Despite these health problems, the DST issue has sparked division. Some states are considering a return to standard time while others favor making DST permanent.
Click here to read how daylight saving time may kick off seasonal depression.