- This weekend, 48 US states will gain an hour to sleep in our annual return to standard time.
- Doctors say standard time is better for our bodies, and more aligned with our circadian clock.
- The Senate proposed to end seasonal time changes last spring, but they chose DST.
On Sunday, the US will engage once again in its bi-annual clock switching tradition, leaving daylight-saving time and switching back to standard time for the winter.
Initially, there’s a bonus. If you go to bed on Saturday night and wake up Sunday morning at the exact same times as you usually do, you’ll get an extra hour of shut-eye.
After the shift, though, our mornings will be brighter earlier, and our evenings will get darker earlier too. (Save Arizona and Hawaii, where the time doesn’t change with the seasons.)
This seasonal shift “can be a little difficult” socially, Dr. Akinbolaji Akingbola, a sleep expert at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said. But it’s actually great for our bodies.
“Standard time, it’s just easier for us,” Akingbola told Insider. “Because we have more sunlight in the morning, it’s easier for us to wake up. Then it’s darker in the evening, it’s easier for us to go to sleep.”
When our clocks lurch forward in the spring time, concentration, reaction times, and our mood “all suffer,” Akingbola said. Studies show accidents, strokes, and heart attacks spike when we switch to daylight-saving time, too. It’s even harder for night owls — who, according to recent research, can take a full week to recover from the jet-lagged feeling of clock-switching.
For years, sleep experts like Akingbola around the world have been pleading: end daylight-saving time for good, and keep standard time year round.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in a position statement endorsed by cardiologists, dentists, the National Safety Council, and others, argues for the permanent adoption of standard time, which the AASM says “aligns best with human circadian biology, and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety.”
Curiously, there’s a bill in Congress right now proposing to do the exact opposite, making daylight-saving time permanent.
There is no real reason why we observe daylight-saving time
Daylight-saving time was originally concocted to save energy by keeping the sun out later in the day, but that idea was never very evidence-based.
Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate agreed to ditch the switch last spring, unanimously passing the “Sunshine Protection Act” right after DST began. If their bill is ultimately green-lit by the House and signed into law by the President, it would make daylight-saving time permanent in 2023, meaning this could be our last “fall back” into standard time.
That prospect may sound good to business owners. More light in the evenings could bring in more sales.
But doctors and health experts would like to see a permanent move the other way, preserving winter’s standard time.
“When we saw that, it was kind of an ‘oopsie-daisies'” Akingbola said of the Senate’s Sunshine Protection Act. “We’ve all been pretty clear that standard time would be the better choice.”
Experts at the Sleep Research Society say daylight-saving time can delay our bodies’ natural melatonin production, making it harder to get to sleep. The stress hormone cortisol is also dysregulated by the shift, which can change metabolism and influence inflammation.
Akingbola says there are things you can do to improve your sleep and feel more alert at work or at school, no matter what time zone you’re in. Opening up the blinds first thing in the morning and letting the sunlight in, turning down the thermostat when you go to bed, and finding a quiet room for sleeping can help.
But the doctor says his main piece of advice for better sleep boils down to one thing.
“Unfortunately, I just have the world’s most uninteresting advice: you need a consistent sleep schedule,” he said.
A more biologically-aligned clock could help us think more clearly, clear out more toxins in our brains, and improve both mood and problem solving — all benefits of good, ample sleep.