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Permanent Daylight Saving Time: The Good and Bad

The U.S. may make daylight saving time permanent, but not everyone is happy.

Key points

  • Permanent daylight saving time could be implemented in November 2023.
  • Permanent daylight saving time should increase outdoor physical activity and socializing while decreasing crime and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Sleep researchers and neurologists have expressed concern about how human bodies will perform without the early morning light.
Peggy Marco / Pixabay
Source: Peggy Marco / Pixabay

Recently, the United States Senate passed legislation making daylight saving time permanent. The bill, known as The Sunshine Protection Act, is one of the few issues that citizens across the liberal-conservative spectrum seem to agree on; a rarity in this current political landscape. Although not everyone is happy about the potential change — sleep experts, for example — there are several reasons to feel good about the new law, which, if passed by the House and signed by the president, could be implemented as soon as November 2023.

Fewer Heart Attacks and Car Accidents

In the days and weeks that follow twice-a-year clock changes, researchers have observed a spike in car accidents and heart attacks. The origins of daylight saving time go back to 1918 when, following the First World War, citizens were encouraged to save energy. It turns out that the cumulative effects of saving electricity by keeping the lights off an extra hour are substantial. Moving the clock back and forth twice a year also disrupts our daily routines, however — an effect more pronounced among older folks.

More Exercise and Socializing

A recent study found that there is a magic number of hours we need to spend outside each week to see a positive net gain in health and well-being. That number is two. You don’t need to go on long hikes or kayaking adventures; you just need to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Plus, when we go outside, we spend more time in face-to-face interactions with real human beings. A few extra minutes outside each week breathing fresh air and smiling at other faces is a good thing.

Less Crime

As a general rule, we should be working on ways to suppress dark triad tendencies (psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism) in our cities while bringing out behaviors associated with the light triad (humanism, faith in others, and positivity). If we can reduce crime and suppress negative psychological tendencies just by keeping an extra hour of daylight, it is a small cost to pay for a large benefit.

Reduced Seasonal Affective Disorder

We know that sunlight has an impact on happiness, positivity, and well-being partly due to the way neurotransmitters respond in the brain. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is sensitive to changes in daylight. Light therapy is one of the treatments for this condition. Extending natural light will certainly not eliminate SAD but it might help to reduce the severity of symptoms. And the extra daylight increases socialization (see above).

Bad Idea?

While many Americans applaud the new legislation as a healthy move — no more losing an hour of sleep, no longer will parents have to adjust newborn babies’ often fussy overnight schedules, etc. — there is a group that thinks this is an idea whose time has not come: Sleep experts.
Those who study sleep patterns and circadian rhythms are worried about the impact on our health and well-being in the long run. They say that sunlight in the morning helps us to reset our clocks so we can stay in sync with the Earth’s 24-hour cycle of dark and light.

© 2022 Kevin Bennett, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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