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This weekend we all enjoyed an extra hour as we fell back to standard time. Many doctors, however, are not fans of daylight savings time, because shifting the time back and forth can have serious health repercussions.

What Doctors Oppose Daylight Saving Time

Morning Sunlight

Morning sunlight has several benefits, not the least of which is the ease of getting around in the light. Light is an important regulator of our daily circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels, an important regulator of sleep, drop with light exposure and help wake us up every morning. Anyone who has to get up before the sun has felt the difference.

Jet lag is a similar phenomenon. When we fly east, and have to speed our sleep clock up, we feel tired. When we fly west, we get time back, and the transition is easier. In the fall, when we get an hour “back”, the transition is easier than in the Spring.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is necessary to maintain good cardiovascular and neurological health. Signs of sleep deprivation are:

Many of the same signs are seen when we spring forward.

Spring Worse Than Fall

The shift to daylight saving time is associated with real health issues. In addition to a general increase in grouchiness and car accidents, an increase in all the following are associated with springing forward.

How to Cope With Time Changes

Short changes in time are easier to tolerate. Try to prepare for known changes in shorter increments, 10-15 minutes at a time as opposed to an hour.

If you have anxiety, depression or seasonal affective disorder, consider increasing the frequency of professional help.

Move to Hawaii, Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or the Northern Mariana Islands. None of them observe daylight saving time.

Let’s Stop Springing and Falling

Although all sudden switches in time are associated with health impacts, the Fall change from daylight saving to standard time is less harmful than the Spring switch. Maybe we can eliminate daylight saving time before next Spring. The state of California had an advisory petition several years ago showing its citizens favored eliminating daylight saving time; however, to date, the state legislators have not taken the advice.

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