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Springing forward an hour comes with public health risks

Kinga Cichewicz

Forwarding clocks an hour to daylight saving time can create more issues than drowsiness. The biannual changing of the clocks can actually have public health consequences.

Sleep experts and neurologists from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have concluded that switching in and out of daylight saving time can be associated with several public health risks.

“There is even evidence to say that shifting from standard time to daylight savings time is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity such as a risk of heart attack, and stroke,” said Dr. Anita Shelgikar, an associate professor of neurology and sleep medicine at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Shelgikar is co-author of a paper published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in October 2020.

She says the group argues the country should be on a fixed, year-round national standard time.

“Because that is what allows our internal clock to be most aligned with our external world," said Dr. Shelgikar. "Specifically, the cues from the sun that entrain our internal clock."

"And so when we have light in the morning and darkness in the evening," Dr. Shelgikar continued, "that's what helps to regulate that consistency of our internal clock and makes it easiest to stay in sync with the world around us."

Dr. Shelgikar advises people to ease into the new time period to avoid shocking your body's system and to build in incremental changes in one's bedtime and work slowly towards a new time schedule. The best results come from consistency.

"Exposing our eyes to bright light in the morning and having a dim and dark environment in the hours leading up to bedtime can really help us maintain healthy sleep habits," said Dr. Shelgikar.

The state of Michigan legislation to eliminate daylight saving time.

Last year, a bill to eliminate shifting in and out of time zones in Michigan was passed in the House with overwhelming support. The House bill was lead by Rep. Michele Hoitenga, a Republican from Manton.

The bill is currently stalled in the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

In a 2019 written statement, Rep. Hointenga said the "time change has been a nuisance to workers and students across Michigan for decades. The practice is antiquated and impractical and it's time we put an end to it - pun intended."

Rep. Hointenga also cited teachers reporting poor student performance because of the time change and several other public health risks to adjusting the clocks in and out of daylight saving time.

Even if the bill passes through all chambers of state government, however, several other factors will determine if Michigan can stay in one time zone year round.

In the bill's current form, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania would all have to pass legislation that observes daylight saving time year round in order for the Michigan law to take effect.

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, as of March 2022, 18 states have advanced or passed resolutions "to provide for year-round daylight saving time."

Currently federal laws do not allow states to switch to full-time, daylight saving time. Therefore, congress would have to change federal codes before states would be granted permission to shift to one time zone full time.

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