Science Simplified 3/15/23

By Reagan Oliver, Staff Writer

The last thing students needed after an eventful spring break was one less hour of sleep. 

Daylight savings time in the spring shifts an hour of daylight time from the morning to the afternoon. This means that in the spring, we lose an hour of sleep, something that new studies suggest is harmful to our sleep schedules. 

Kenneth Wright, a circadian rhythm expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, explains that there is no change in the amount of time the sun is up during the day, just how we live relative to the sun. When the clock moves forward an hour, this then means that at noon the sun is no longer at its peak in the sky; this, according to Wright, is a big deal. 

Humans have evolved with a natural cycle set by the sun, the most important of which is the morning’s blue light, which serves as a key wake-up signal. When we mess with the time this light is exposed, Wright noted, “We’re essentially making the choice: Do we want to go with what we’ve evolved with, or do we want to alter that?” 

Daylight savings time has been correlated with many health problems, from simple sleep loss to heart attacks. Studies show daylight savings time changes are correlated with increased stroke deaths. One study compared the health of Americans living in different time zones. Those living on the early sunset side of the United States (the west) had a higher rate of health issues than those living on the late sunset border (the east). The health issues with the highest correlation were obesity, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

The solution to this dilemma would be adopting permanent standard time. However, time doesn’t always work for us. Doctors recommend five different sleep practices in order to avoid adverse health effects. Those steps include waking up with the sunshine, having consistent sleep, meal and exercise schedules, avoiding afternoon naps and avoiding afternoon caffeine.