Our clocks recently “moved forward” to Daylight Saving Time (DST). And in a timely act, the US Senate unanimously voted to make DST permanent throughout the year. Called “The Sunshine Protection Act,” champions of this law predict it will reduce crime, conserve energy, boost the economy and improve health.
What advocates may have forgotten is that we have tried permanent DST several times over the past century – and each time repealed it.
Most recently, in January 1974, President Richard Nixon enacted permanent DST to save energy during the oil crisis. The proposal was initially supported by 79% of the public. On January 6, 1974, Americans put forward their watches with a plan to keep them there for the next two years.
A letter to the editor published in Greeley Tribune during that first winter requests parents to turn on porch lights to illuminate children’s paths to school in the dark, complaints about morning fatigue and lost productivity , and included observations about rising heat and lightning. Use during cold mornings.
Ironically, after that first winter on DST, a report from the Department of Transportation showed that getting out of school and working earlier in the afternoon led to an increase in motor traffic and gasoline consumption (less than 1% in electricity use). saved). Even more worrying, there was a sharp increase in traffic deaths with children in January and February as young children went to school in the dark. By spring, public support for year-long DST had fallen to 42%.
On March 5, 1974, an article in the Seattle Times lamented, “It seemed like a good idea at the time … Now, some two months later, actual experience with daylight saving in winter has led to such A number of repealed bills were introduced in both the House and Senate that have generated strong protests.” Permanent DST was repealed by the autumn of that year.
The two prior experiences with permanent DST in the US were similar. In March 1918, during World War I the clocks were moved an hour earlier to “preserve daylight” and proved so unpopular that it was swiftly repealed after seven months. In February 1942, during World War II (known as “wartime”) the clocks moved forward one hour, which was canceled by September 1945.
We now understand the biology of why these efforts failed. Our bodies have an internal time system, or circadian “clock,” that regulates our biological processes on a roughly 24-hour cycle. This clock is linked to the day-night schedule by nature’s alarm clock: the morning sun.
Wintertime DST forces people to rise before dawn during the darkest time of the year, which puts human activity, the biological clock, and the day/night cycle in misalignment. Research has shown that the difference between the school body clock and the “social clock” and the time it starts work is associated with less sleep, higher cancer rates, mental-health problems, cognitive problems, accidents, and decreased life expectancy. Is.
Nowhere are the consequences of this change more apparent than in adolescents and adolescents, whose biological clocks are “set” to wake up later and go to sleep later. Early wake-up times for teens have been linked to persistent chronic sleep deprivation. This is why Seattle public schools delayed school starts in 2016, after which sleep duration, attendance and academic performance improved. Permanent DST will force children and adolescents to wake up an hour earlier, effectively undoing this beneficial policy change.
Knowing what we know now, what is the best policy? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends standard time of year, not DST. This position is based on decades of scientific, medical and public policy research, and is endorsed by more than 20 major organizations.
George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let’s not repeat the mistake made (and corrected) once every generation for the past century, especially now that modern biology has identified a better path to the future.