This Saturday night before bed, some of us will seek out clocks that need to be adjusted ahead one hour for the annual spring forward to daylight saving time or wait to find out which ones don’t automatically reset on their own.
For those wondering, this is the shift where we lose an hour and the one that sleep experts say has the most detrimental effects on our health.
With the passage of Proposition 7 in 2018, nearly 60% of voters chose to give the California legislature the power to establish permanent year-round standard or daylight time. But federal law doesn’t allow states to switch to year-round daylight saving time. It only allows permanent standard time, which happens in the fall when we set our clocks back an hour.
Still, state lawmakers have yet to move forward with any plan for addressing the issue.
Meanwhile, one of the main arguments to make standard time permanent remains: health effects.
Dr. Kin Yuen, UC San Francisco sleep specialist and American Academy of Sleep Medicine spokeswoman, spoke with CapRadio’s Randol White about the time change and gave tips for reducing any side effects.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Heading into the weekend, what advice do you give patients?
It is so hard just to switch that one hour, right? Because that Sunday to Monday is such a difficult transition. So typically, we ask that since we can anticipate this change, that we try to shift our schedule maybe every couple of days by going to bed 15-20 minutes early and waking up 15-20 minutes earlier. The most important piece is the fact that sunlight in the morning helps us adapt to the earlier clock. And so that's when we may want to sit outside, get some sunlight, or maybe do some gentle exercise, perhaps eat something or drink something along with that habit. And that will help reinforce our sleep patterns.
Some people might say it's just an hour, what's the big deal? Why does an hour make such a difference?
Because our innate biological clock is very resistant, so that one hour's time change actually would take us about four or five days to recover. So it's not just a sleep cycle, every aspect of the cells — when we eat, when we may have alertness — all that would change with that one single hour's time shift earlier.
Which sleep disorders would you say seem to be most affected by this spring forward routine?
Well, I think all of us are impacted by that one hour's time change because we make more mistakes. We know that traffic accidents tend to get worse, particularly that Sunday and Monday. They tend to normalize a little bit better during the end of the week. The other aspect is that those who are more susceptible may be more likely to develop depression. And if it's chronically a problem, then some individuals may become more anxious as well because we worry that we cannot go to sleep, and very often we work backwards from what time we have to get up to determine what time we should go to sleep. And the inability to do so is worsening those anxious feelings.
California voters chose to do away with the twice a year clock change a few years back, but lawmakers still need to take up the issue for that to become official. What's your advice to lawmakers on getting this over the finish line?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is strongly for keeping standard time because of all these possible accidents, human errors and the fact that we just don't do well, and therefore we think that the lawmakers should listen to the science. The science is such that we perform better, we feel better and we make less mistakes and there will be less fatalities. If we just keep standard time, it is better for everyone's health.
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