Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Daylight savings time (DST) is the annual practice of advancing clocks by one hour between March and November.
The purpose of DST is to preserve natural light because during the spring, summer, and early fall months, it gets dark later in the evening than it does during the late fall and winter months.
Advocates of DST typically argue that it saves energy, encourages outdoor leisure activities in the evening (during the summer), and is beneficial to physical and mental health.
Opposing Opinions: Government vs Medical Community
Earlier this year, the United States Senate enacted the Sunshine Protection Act (S. 623), which will institute permanent DST in the United States beginning in November 2023.
Sleep experts have rebuffed this development. Renowned sleep associations, including the Sleep Research Society, have suggested that both temporary and permanent DST are harmful.
Several studies have observed that transitioning from standard time (ST) to DST, particularly in March, induces heart troubles, mood disorders, circadian rhythm anomalies, and sleep problems.
Furthermore, experts have said that adopting a permanent DST will likely worsen these symptoms. It’s the reason why several health organizations have advocated for the elimination of DST.
New Research: DST Causes Sleep Loss
An outstanding study by American scientists from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, sheds new light on the effects of DST.
The study considered the health and economic benefits and drawbacks of adopting a permanent ST, permanent DST, or maintaining the current schedule (a temporary DST). The study indicated that endless standard time had the most significant sleep benefits.
Also, the results demonstrated that DST resulted in acute sleep loss, long-term circadian disruption, and an imbalance of melatonin and cortisol.
A disturbance in these hormones has been linked to stress, metabolic changes, and inflammation. Furthermore, the study’s findings indicated that if DST were implemented permanently, circadian rhythm discord might persist all year.
Moreover, these findings are corroborated by much research on the effects of DST on sleep. One such research includes a fantastic study by English scientists of the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool. The study showed that DST causes a rise in sleep latency and fragmentation, eventually leading to sleep loss and poor health.
Dr. Beth Malow, the primary study’s lead author and head of the sleep division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, noted that the vast majority of research argues in favor of permanently adopting ST rather than continuing our practice of switching back and forth between ST and DST each spring.
Support from the Medical Community
Furthermore, many sleep specialists’ associations have reiterated the need to scrap the trend of transitioning between DST and ST.
One such association includes the Sleep Research Society. Dr. Namni Goel, president of the Sleep Research Society (SRS) and professor of psychiatry at the Rush University Medical Centre, Illinois, commented that the SRS stridently supports the implementation of a universally adopted permanent standard time.
“We will continue to educate legislators and the general public on the sleep and circadian studies that supports ST, and we will fight for legislation to be passed in congress that will permanently restore ST across the country,” Goel said.
Also, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) supports the elimination of DST and the adoption of a permanent ST.
In a recent statement released by the association, they advocated that the United States switch to a national time constant throughout the year rather than observing seasonal fluctuations.
According to the AASM, available evidence lends the most support to the implementation of year-round ST, which is the most congruent with the circadian biology of humans and offers numerous advantages for public health and safety.
How to Optimize Sleep during DST
Typically, the days preceding the transition to DST are pretty problematic. You can follow these tips to improve your sleep during DST.
- Maintain a Healthy Sleep Habit: Your sleep habits determine the quality of your sleep. You can improve your sleep during DST by adopting and maintaining healthy sleep habits, like sleeping in a dark and cool room. Also, avoid consuming alcohol and other stimulating drinks like coffee before bed. Additionally, heavy dinners and snacks before bedtime can severely impact the quality of your sleep.
- Adopt a Regular Sleep Schedule: A consistent sleep schedule can help you sleep better during DST. Ensure you pick a time that works well for you and sleep for at least 7 hours daily.
- Modify Your Sleep Schedule Gradually: Sometimes, changing your sleep schedule during DST is inevitable. If you have to change your sleep schedule, make sure you don’t make sudden and excessive changes to your sleep time, as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Instead, it would be best if you made gradual changes till you find a schedule that works for you.
- Beth A Malow. (2022). It is time to abolish the clock change and adopt permanent standard time in the United States: a Sleep Research Society position statement, sleep, zsac236, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsac236
- S.623 – Sunshine Protection Act of 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/623
- Harrison, Y. (2013). The impact of daylight saving time on sleep and related behaviours. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 17(4), 285–292. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2012.10.001
- Rishi, M. A., Ahmed, O., Barrantes Perez, J. H., Berneking, M., Dombrowsky, J., Flynn-Evans, E. E., Santiago, V., Sullivan, S. S., Upender, R., Yuen, K., Abbasi-Feinberg, F., Aurora, R. N., Carden, K. A., Kirsch, D. B., Kristo, D. A., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Olson, E. J., Ramar, K., … Gurubhagavatula, I. (2020). Daylight saving time: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 16(10), 1781–1784. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8780