The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a professional organization of doctors that controls the accreditation of U.S. sleep clinics, has officially called for the elimination of daylight saving time.
“An abundance of accumulated evidence indicates that the acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks, including increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and motor vehicle crashes,” AASM said in a position paper that will be published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine on October 15.
Daylight saving time sucks. Twice a year most Americans shift the clock. We “spring forward” an hour sometime around March and “fall back” an hour sometime around November. Why? It depends on who you ask and what time in the past you’re talking about. Seriously. It was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 and first implemented—we think—in World War I as a method of saving fuel. Growing up in the South, I always heard the apocryphal tale that America had invented it to help farmers have a few more hours of working light during key times of the year.
Though the origins of daylight saving time are complicated, its detrimental health effects aren’t. “Getting away from daylight saving time might be in the best interest of everyone involved,” Kannan Ramar, the President of AASM and a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, told Motherboard on the phone. “It affects not only the quality of sleep but the quantity of sleep that people end up getting. Traffic accidents increase the first few days after the switch...increases in fatal traffic accidents are up to six percent...you see increased heart attacks and strokes and irregular heartbeats after we shift to daylight saving time.”
Ramar also cited a recent study out of the Mayo Clinic that found adverse medical events due to human error increased by 18 percent the week after daylight saving time. “This could be anything like medication errors like prescribing the wrong medication for a particular patient,” Ramar said.
According to Ramar, America needs to pick a time zone and stick with it. For him, the evidence is clear. Abandon daylight saving time and stick with standard time. “With daylight saving time you get more daylight in the evening and more dark when you wake up in the morning,” he said. “And that’s really not conducive for the body’s circadian cycle. If you get more light in the morning and less light in the evening, that is more conducive for the body to go to bed and wake up at the right time.”
The evidence that daylight saving time is bad, and even deadly, has been mounting for years. Ramar compared the situation to a cup being filled with water. “It’s overflowing,” he said. “You have enough data now to really say that this is not good for our health. There’s no going back now.”
Making the change is easier said than done. It will require people petitioning politicians to force changes to state and local law. Arizona, Hawaii, and several other U.S. territories opted out of daylight saving time long ago. Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and others have attempted to pass legislation in recent years but the bills often die in committee or fail to generate support.
Ramar hopes that AASM’s position paper can help change that. “The first step is to educate or political leaders that now is the time to change,” he said. “If that meets with resistance, it’ll be important to figure out what the barriers might be.”