This should be the last time we change clocks for DST

The Sunshine Protection Act could stop the time changes in the U.S. for good

An old clock tower by the Sinclair Centre in downtown Vancouver (Keet Kailey)

The United States Senate recently passed the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill that would make daylight time permanent for the West Coast. In 2019, the British Columbia government passed legislation to switch to daylight time permanently but only once the states along the West Coast aligned their time too. 

However, the bill still requires approval from both houses of representatives and President Joe Biden. If approved, the bill could bring hope for those who want all Canadians and Americans to follow the same unchanging time zone. 

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a method of preserving daylight by setting the clock back an hour compared to the standard time, and this process starts in the late fall and goes until the spring. Recently this time change occurred on March 12 and will end on Nov. 6, when we traditionally change the clock back an hour. 

One of the ideas behind DST is that having more daylight hours increases safety by reducing road accidents and promotes an active and healthier lifestyle by giving people opportunities to spend more time outdoors during the winter months. Similarly, more daylight time gives retailers the opportunity for more sales if people like to go out for longer days.

However, DST has been found to have an adverse effect on both physical and mental health, like interrupting a person’s sleep cycle. Adjusting clocks by an hour also disrupts our natural circadian rhythms, the physical, mental, and behavioural changes that are directly linked to the natural changes of sunlight throughout the day. 

Changes in the rhythm can negatively affect health in some surprising ways. For example, some people experience headaches after the fall time change. One study found that the risk of cardiac arrest “increases by 10% the Monday and Tuesday following the spring time change.”

The time change also impacts people’s productivity. The first Monday after spring DST is popularly called “sleepy Monday” due to the lack of sleep people get the night before.

The long working hours can also make people exhausted. Employees are found to spend more time cyberloafing, wasting time on the internet because they’re too tired to focus. 

The human body cannot easily adjust its circadian rhythms with the sudden time change, so it causes sleep deprivation, which has been linked to all kinds of health risks on top of this lost productivity.

As for the benefits DST could bring to businesses, it turns out that changing the time can also be costly. An index developed by Chmura Economics & Analytics published in 2016 estimated that DST could cost the American economy $434 million due to lost sleep. That’s an expensive hour.

Turning clocks every few months is a hassle for some, even though others support it for the benefit of having that additional bit of light during the daytime. 

However, following one standard time will make everyone’s life easier both locally and internationally, especially if other countries start following the lead of the U.S. and ending their own DST cycles as well.