How to Survive the Stupid Spring Forward of Daylight Saving Time


Scientists say we should end Daylight Saving Time and switch to permanent Standard Time. Congress disagrees. Here’s how you can best sleep through the debate.

With time, perhaps the U.S. Congress will wake up to the reality that Daylight Saving Time is bad for personal sleep and public health and safety. For now, legislators are asleep at the wheel, just as many Americans might be after being forced to spring forward Sunday, March 12, potentially losing an hour of sleep.

Short sleep will have immediate and lasting negative effects.

“In a nation that is already sleep-deprived, losing an extra hour can make a huge impact,” says Harneet Walia, MD, a sleep specialist with the Cleveland Clinic.

Just one night of insufficient sleep can significantly impair next-day memory, decision-making, and mood. Some evidence suggests the bad effects can persist for a week or more beyond the initial switch. In a survey, 55% of Americans said they’ve felt somewhat or extremely tired after the spring forward.

The individual tolls add up to grim nationwide statistics. After the annual forward spring to Daylight Saving Time (DST):

  • Auto accidents spike 6% for the first week.
  • The number of heart attacks on the first Monday increased by 25%.
  • Worker productivity falls and workplace accidents rise.
  • Giving to charitable organizations drops 10% in that first week, but only in states where the clocks change. Grumpy and less generous, are we?

Below, I lay out a plan to help you survive this arguably asinine and anachronistic leap ahead, a time warp with roots in World War I designed in part to save energy (though there’s no evidence it actually does). First, a bit about how politicians seem poised to leap backward on the issue.

Ain’t no sunshine…

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators reintroduced the “Sunshine Protection Act” to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. The Senate passed the same legislation this time last year but it stalled in the House when lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether to kill Standard Time, as the bill would, or keep Standard Time and nix DST forever.

Since then, a growing coalition of scientists and sleep experts has made a strong case for getting rid of DST and putting the whole country permanently on Standard Time, as is already the case in Hawaii, most of Arizona, and the U.S. territories.

Some people might prefer DST given their work or other life schedules. That’s understandable, so none of the three possible options (one being to stick with the current twice-a-year time switch) are necessarily ideal for every individual.

But throughout the year, Standard Time would offer more daylight hours when the majority of adults and kids need to be awake and doing stuff. It is better in line with our natural body clocks, the eons-old circadian rhythm that governs our sleep-wake cycle by, among other mechanisms, releasing the hormone melatonin in the evening to help make us sleepy and suppressing it during the day to keep us awake and alert. More than any other factor, daylight, and darkness govern this cycle.

“It is time to stop changing our clocks in the spring and fall, but making Daylight Saving Time permanent is the wrong choice,” said Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“Daylight Saving Time disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms and impacts sleep,” Martin explained. “Standard Time provides a better opportunity to get the right duration of high-quality, restful sleep on a regular basis, which improves our cognition, mood, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being.”

With a permanent switch to Standard Time — what scientists urge — people would wake up in the dark, before sunrise, far less often than under the current back-and-forth setup or with the politician’s ill-advised switch to permanent DST. Experts say that kids and teens, many of whom are sleep-deprived given early school start times, would also benefit from permanent Standard Time. Example: