Sleep Experts Call For An End To Clock Changes Due To Their Impact On Health

By Khadija Pervez in Health and Fitness On 6th November 2023

You may be familiar with that sensation when you wake up in the morning, and your phone's screen shows a time that implies you should be energized for the day, yet your body remains fatigued. 

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The biannual adjustment of the clocks leaves our minds and bodies in a state of bewilderment, even though it is intended to ease the transition into longer and darker winter nights.

In spite of this, there is a mounting demand from scientists to switch back to standard time overnight on Sunday and maintain this time setting continuously.

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New York-based clinical psychiatrist Yalda Safai told ABC News that: "Fixed national time is the best option as it most closely matches the human sleep-wake cycle, any changes to the body's natural circadian rhythm has the potential to disrupt the natural functioning of the body."

Currently, the majority of the United States adjusts its clocks by moving them forward one hour, a practice aimed at extending daylight during the day. However, starting on Sunday, November 5, the clocks will "fall back" to standard time, resulting in more daylight in the mornings.

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Nevertheless, a group of experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has joined forces to promote the idea of implementing standard time as a permanent measure throughout the United States through state and federal legislation.

The adoption of year-round standardized time is anticipated to aid the body in naturally synchronizing with the daily day-to-night cycles without the disruption caused by the biannual clock changes.

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Rebecca Robbins, PhD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital told ABC News: "Having more light in the mornings is beneficial. Some positive evidence we've seen from switching to standard time is having more sunlight exposure so our children can safely walk and wait for the school bus."

"Morning sunlight exposure stops the floodgates of melatonin, our sleep hormone, and switches to the wake phase of our circadian rhythm. This is important for our brain to say we can start our day."

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Nevertheless, the current practice of changing the clocks is associated with significant health risks, including an elevated risk of heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms. It also heightens the likelihood of sleep disturbances and mood fluctuations.

Additionally, the inconvenience of having to remember whether to set the clock forward or backward each year adds to the frustration.

The AASM characterizes this transition as inducing a state of chronic 'jet lag,' where our internal biological clock and external environmental cues fail to synchronize.

"Sleep is essential for promoting cardiovascular and neurological health. Those who are sleep deprived experience headaches, brain fog, memory and concentration issues, and do not make good decisions for themselves because executive function is not at its best," says Dr. Leah Croll, a neurologist and assistant professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

However, it is a common belief that the conclusion of daylight saving time is met with widespread disapproval, as the transition to darker days and longer nights requires a period of adjustment. 

These extended periods of cold and darkness are well-documented for their substantial impact on emotional well-being, with some individuals developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can result in depression.