You have now had about a week to settle into it, so how has this switch back to standard time been for you? With such a critical national, local and regional election cycle underway (I’ll save that discussion for a different venue), I’m guessing that this tradition of moving clocks back one hour may be hardly noticed.
But there are a couple of developments that make this year’s switch much more significant than in years past. On the one hand, this year could signal the end of a century-old tradition of shifting to standard time. A bill co-authored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would have us permanently “spring forward” to daylight saving time. The proposed law, which was passed by a rare unanimous Senate vote in March, is now dealing with a much different experience in Congress.
Reported by the Washington Post and others, a March YouGov poll shows that people are sick and tired of this twice-per-year change of the clocks. But, on the other hand, “only about half of the people who favored a change wanted permanent Daylight Saving Time, while about one-third supported permanent standard time and others were unsure.” Something that seemed simple and a slam dunk has now become very complicated.
This practice of bouncing one hour forward and then one hour back each year doesn’t just wreak havoc on one’s schedule but also doesn’t sit well “with our internal clock,” says a Cleveland Clinic report. “In a nation that is already sleep deprived, losing an extra hour can make a huge impact,” says sleep specialist Harneet Walia, director of Sleep Medicine at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.
The Department of Transportation, which helps govern enforcement of time zones, has been tasked with reviewing the effects of permanently changing the clocks. Its analysis is not due until the end of December 2023, suggesting that “the issue may not get serious consideration in Congress again until 2024 at the earliest,” says the Post.
In the meantime, we can expect to continue to be stuck between many conflicting opinions and the competing interests of commerce and the economic benefits of more daylight, and the concern of harmful effects to our health.
While no one knows where this will all end up, Beth Ann Malow, a neurologist and sleep medicine researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, suggests that “the United States may end up needing a compromise — moving the clock by 30 minutes, and then staying that way permanently,” reports the Post.
Underlying all this is the issue of sleep. As reported by Fox News’ Shiv Sudhakar in March, the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine describes the effects of advancing our clocks one hour ahead as imposing a state of “permanent social jet lag.”
According to a post on the University of California, Berkeley website, its Center for Human Sleep Science recently conducted an experiment where participants were deprived of sleep one entire night and then tested the next morning on their willingness to help others. Participants were asked to make judgments about people based on photos and short descriptions. Reports Jill Suttie, “The findings were striking. People deprived of sleep were less willing to help others, and it didn’t matter whether the person in need was close to them or not. The (functional magnetic resonance imaging) findings suggested that the reason for that was that the brain networks involved in caring about others were severely hampered by sleep loss.”
“Even if you are a person who’s more likely to help others when you are well-rested, sleep loss will impair your desire to be kind and generous,” says the study leader, UC Berkeley research scientist Eti Ben Simon. “Sleep loss doesn’t take prisoners. Everyone’s affected.” He goes on to say that the effect holds even if we only miss a few hours of sleep.
“After poor sleep — fewer hours of sleep or sleep of worse quality — people were less willing to help,” writes Suttie. “These findings mirror those of prior studies showing how sleep impacts our social lives.”
It makes you wonder, if a lack of proper sleep can affect one’s social life, what about one’s business life? Then, I read this CBS News report. According to Megan Cerull, “A Gallup survey of nearly 16,000 working adults in the U.S. found that nearly one in five workers rate their mental health as only ‘fair’ or ‘poor,’ with those employees taking an average of 12 unplanned days off annually. Extrapolated across the entire workforce, the collective missed days cost the economy nearly $48 billion annually in lost productivity.”
While I grant you that this report doesn’t list a lack of sleep as a cause, it does make you wonder. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep deficiency can cause you to feel very tired during the day and can also interfere with work.
“Sleep deficiency can cause problems with learning, focusing, and reacting,” says a post on the institute’s website. “You may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, managing your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. You may take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.”
“The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping,” they explain. “During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and support your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development … The damage from sleep deficiency can happen in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time.” It can affect how well you “think, react, work, learn, and get along with others,” they add. “Sleep helps your brain work properly.”
When discussing how we are to best set our clocks, the issue of its impact on sleep deserves its proper seat at the table.