Did you wake up this morning feeling a little bewildered about the time? You’re not alone yourself.
The transition from daylight saving time (DST) — also known as summer time or daylight time — to standard time began on Sunday at 2 a.m. in most time zones throughout Canada.
The bi-annual time change – clocks are adjusted an hour forward in March — has become a contentious issue, with numerous regions wishing to abolish the century-old tradition.
The goal of DST is to save energy and make greater use of daylight throughout the longer days of spring and summer.
Because the shift causes a mismatch between the local time and our body’s internal clock, researchers believe it may have quantifiable effects on health, such as sleep loss and cardiac issues.
“We shouldn’t be putting ourselves through this twice a year,” said Colleen Carney, a sleep expert and Ryerson University professor.
“When there’s a shift in, either way, it shows how the body deals with irregularity.”
From a health standpoint, there is increasing agreement that keeping on permanent standard time year-round is the ideal choice since it permits our natural body clock to be more in sync with the social clock.
The move is “extremely taxing on people’s biological rhythms,” according to Wendy Hall, a licensed nurse and emeritus professor at the University of British Columbia.
“We should be on one system for the whole year, rather than going back and forth,” she remarked.
DST’s Effects on the Human Body
Carney called daylight time a “real-world exercise to replicate jetlag.” It’s the same sensation we experience after a lengthy travel that results in a time zone shift.
“Your body is basically anticipating one time and it gets another,” Carney said.
As the body adapts to the new time, we experience jetlag symptoms such as mental and physical exhaustion, she noted.
People may have trouble sleeping or waking up. And if you don’t get enough sleep, your metabolism suffers, as does your eating habits.
Hall referred to it as “social jetlag,” and she believes it is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetic complications, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
Then there’s the question of light exposure.
According to Hall, the change in spring, when we advance our clocks by one hour, implies less exposure to light in the morning and more exposure to light in the evening.
This may lead to individuals going to bed later, which, in the midst of ongoing social or professional obligations, can lead to sleep loss and some sleep debt, she adds.
According to Patricia Lakin-Thomas, a chronobiology specialist and York University professor, we ideally want the dawn to be near to the time we regularly wake up so that we may receive enough light to reset our internal clocks.
She stated that since our internal clock is a little delayed, we require the dawn light as a warning signal to reset our clock every day so that we can be in sync with the day and night cycle.
What conclusions may be drawn from the research?
A increasing amount of studies indicates that daylight time may have a harmful influence on human health.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical looked at seven research with over 100,000 participants. It discovered an elevated risk of heart attack in the weeks after the spring and autumn DST changes.
A statewide research conducted in Finland in 2016 and published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that stroke-related hospitalizations rose within the first two days following the changeover.
Meanwhile, another 2020 study of data from the United States and Sweden published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology found that the spring shift was connected with an increased risk of immune-related ailments, digestive system issues, infections, and traumas.
Several studies have shown an increase in automobile accidents on the first workday following daylight savings time.
According to a 2011 Global News review of police records, nine more pedestrians were injured or killed in Toronto in the week after the autumn time change than in the weeks before or after.
According to a 2020 research published in the journal Current Biology, the spring changeover to DST increased the probability of fatal road accidents by 6% in the United States.
“A one-hour transition in the spring may have a lot of short-term health implications, such as an increase in automobile accidents and job injuries,” Lakin-Thomas said.
“We also have evidence that judges dole down harsher penalties in the spring for a few days soon after the time change, perhaps because they’re a little sleep deprived and a little grumpy from the jetlag,” she added.
Long-term and short-term effects
While the short-term acute impacts of the changeover may only last a few days, the shift may be quite disruptive to persons who already have underlying health issues.
“If you have something like sleeplessness, for example, the additional disturbance that you experienced twice a year might take on a life of its own and subsequently produce other difficulties,” Carney said.
Experts are also concerned about the long-term effects of DST, although further study is required.
Staying out of sync with our biological clock, according to Hall, may result in chronic impacts that “last considerably longer than during the first several weeks” following the transition.
While experts believe that the transition in the springtime is more severe, the change in the autumn has its drawbacks as well.
With less evening light and shorter days, Hall believes people are less active in the evening.
The return to standard time in the autumn has also been connected to sadness due to sad seasonal affective disorder, in which individuals get gloomy due to less exposure to daylight, according to Hall.
Push for the abolition of DST
Yukon, most of Saskatchewan, and sections of British Columbia and Quebec remain on standard time in Canada.
In recent years, there has been a drive in several countries to remove daylight saving time.
In 2020, Ontario introduced and overwhelmingly approved a private members bill named “The Time Amendment Act.”
Ontario MPP Jeremy Roberts, who presented the daylight saving law, says he is “optimistic” that the end of daylight saving time in 2021 on Sunday will be the province’s last.
In an interview with Global News, Roberts said that he had made significant progress in talks with Quebec and New York about abolishing daylight saving time.
The British Columbia legislature enacted identical legislation in 2019, but the process has been slowed because American states in the same time zone have yet to follow suit.
The topic of time change was also on the ballot in last month’s municipal elections in Alberta.
“Do you want Alberta to embrace year-round Daylight Saving Time?” Albertans were asked. — removing the need for us to change our clocks twice a year.
Moreover half of those polled said no, preferring to maintain the existing quo of daylight saving time.
The Canadian Society for Chronobiology supports making the changeover to year-round standard time permanent.
The worst option, according to Lakin-Thomas, would be to switch to daylight savings time all year since we would be “jetlagged forever.”
How to Make Changes and Prepare
While it may take a few days for humans to adjust to the new time, the transition is more difficult for children to make.
“Children don’t really comprehend this, so what typically occurs in the autumn is that they end up getting up at 4 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., which is quite difficult on parents when that happens,” Hall said.
Hall and Carney suggest resetting our clocks by 10-15 minutes four or five days before the transition to best prepare for the shift.
In the autumn, it would imply going to bed 10 to 15 minutes later each night and sleeping in a little longer in the morning, according to Hall.
Furthermore, it is critical to be vigilant of other beneficial habits in the first day or two after the adjustment, according to Carney.
Watching what you eat, keeping hydrated, not being over-caffeinated, obtaining natural light throughout the day, and exercising are all smart alertness measures.