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Doctor discusses potential health hazards of permanent daylight saving time

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Mid-South sleep expert says switching to permanent daylight saving time could have a detrimental impact on our health. The Senate this week overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make d.s.t. the norm in the U.S.

Sleep experts say sunlight activates critical hormones that fuel our bodies for the day, so the earlier we see the sun, the better. And melatonin, key to falling asleep, is triggered when the sun sets. The longer the sun is up, the more difficult it is to get a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Robert Schriner, Medical Director of the Baptist Sleep Disorder Center in Collierville, remembers when the U.S. made daylight saving time permanent in 1974 to conserve energy during the oil embargo. It was repealed within a year.

“The reason it was repealed,” he said, “especially in rural areas... they weren’t happy that the kids were standing out in the middle of winter in total darkness.”

Parents didn’t like their children waiting for the bus or walking to school in the dark. There were so many pre-dawn traffic accidents, the phrase “daylight disaster time” was coined. Today doctors said permanent daylight saving time would be bad for our health.

“We know from studies that it not only impacts how we feel, it affects our mood,” said Dr. Schriner. “It can increase our risk of cardiovascular conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation.”

The doctors and researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are among the most vocal opponents of year-round d.s.t.

They said it’s the equivalent of the entire country suffering from jet lag. Dr. Schriner cautions permanent daylight saving time, with less sunlight early in our day, and too much before bedtime, can also impact your blood sugar and immune system.

“I think we should try something,” he told Action News 5. “Now, whether or not you’re in that camp that wants permanent d.s.t., or like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, we’re promoting more staying on standard time throughout the year, looking at the research, the best is going to be standard time.”

If the U.S. House passes the Sunshine Protection Act and President Biden signs it into law, Americans would fall back again this November, spring forward in March 2023 and then never change our clocks again.

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