Foes of Daylight Saving Time warn of increased risk of heart attacks
The unwelcome grogginess of the Sunday morning after the clocks go forward is supposed to be a small price to pay for the joyful imminence of spring. Some campaigners, however, say it might just kill you.
Campaigners in a number of US states are lobbying to eliminate the twice-yearly clock change, especially when it involves losing an hour’s sleep – as it will overnight from Saturday to Sunday this week.
One argument put forward is that switching to Daylight Saving Time increases the risk of a heart attack – especially on the Monday morning after the change.
A Denver fitness instructor, Sean Johnson, last week launched a campaign called Save the Daylight Colorado. Johnson aims to put a measure seeking to abolish clock changes in the state on the ballot at the November 2016 elections.
“I’m a personal trainer and people were telling me they feel drained of energy during the winter and then when the clocks go forward it takes them a month to get used to the new schedule and they hate that,” he told the Guardian. “There are many reasons not to keep switching.”
Johnson cited research presented last year by a cardiovascular expert, Dr Amneet Sandhu, who is a fellow at the University of Colorado, Denver. Sandhu’s research suggests that hospitals see an increase of up to 25% in the number of patients suffering heart attacks shortly after the clocks go forward in the spring.
Loss of sleep resulting from the mandated time change in the early hours of Sunday morning affects the circadian rhythm and can be risky for those already vulnerable to a heart attack, according to Sandhu.
Sandhu admitted to the Guardian that while he is in rude health himself, he nevertheless dreads the switch to Daylight Saving Time, which he compared to a miniature version of jetlag.
“I never like to lose an hour’s sleep,” he said. “It’s no fun.”
Sandhu did, however, find it baffling that there appeared to be no definitive research comparing the apparent increase in the incidence of heart attacks shortly after the time change with the offset effect of lighter evenings encouraging more people to exercise and thereby, over a longer period, preventing heart disease.
Johnson said he liked summer time – just not the idea of having to put the clocks forward to achieve it. He wants Daylight Saving Time all year round.
Idaho last week withdrew legislation that proposed doing just that, citing federal law that it interpreted as allowing for standard time all year round or switching back and forth, but not 365 days of Daylight Saving Time.
Johnson, however, said he believed the law was ambiguous and if he could gather approximately 100,000 signatures to put his initiative on the ballot, and then have enough people vote for it, Colorado could become the first state to be ahead of time all the time. New Mexico is considering legislation to switch to Daylight Saving Time year round, while a proposal to impose standard time year round in Washington state is being considered. A proposal to do so in Utah was recently defeated.
Success in Colorado or New Mexico could lead to an interesting timekeeping patchwork in the American west, where Arizona already observes permanent standard time and Utah switches back and forth.
Hawaii also permanently keeps standard time.
Johnson argued that dark winter evening commutes increased pollution, given that the fumes from rush hour traffic are more easily dissipated by sunlight. He also raised concerns about traffic accidents and electricity usage. Experts argue both ways on energy consumption.
The US adopted Daylight Saving Time during the first world war, believing it saved on energy consumption in the early evening.
William Shughart, professor of public choice at Utah State University and a well-known libertarian, said he would prefer to stick to one time regimen, whether standard or daylight saving. He has estimated that the time spent purely winding one’s watches and clocks forwards and backwards twice a year costs the US economy $1.7bn annually.
“You don’t need the government to tell you what time it is,” he said.
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