Last Sunday, we put our clocks forward one hour and entered daylight saving time, meaning sunlight starts later in the day and lasts longer into the night.
But this small time adjustment can have a big effect on many people’s sleep cycles, and, as a result, have drastic repercussions for the physical and mental wellbeing of young people, specifically teenagers.
Sleep specialist Dr Tony Fernando says he is “not a fan” of daylight saving as it negatively impacts our body clocks.
“The problem with daylight saving is it artificially adjusts our body clock by an hour.
“People have to get up earlier by an hour, which means that they're waking up earlier than what their body wants,” he says.
High school students lose an average of roughly 2 hours and 42 minutes of sleep per week when daylight saving starts, a 2015 study found.
By nature, teenagers tend to prefer to go to sleep late and wake up later in the morning. So when daylight saving forces them to get up earlier, it can “cause havoc”, Fernando says.
“Studies in the US have shown that there’s a link between body clock issues as a cause for higher rates of depression, higher rates of poor performance in school, even [car] accidents.”
Research in the US found that between 1996 and 2017 there was a consistent rise in fatal car crashes in the week following the switch over to daylight saving time, averaging at a 6% increase.
In terms of solutions, Fernando says that teenagers need to be getting more sleep and this could be achieved by later school starts, prescribed treatments to readjust body clocks, and teenagers avoiding screen time a couple of hours before bedtime.
Earlier this year, the United States Senate unanimously passed legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent in the US. The House of Representatives still needs to pass the bill in order for it to become law.
Fernando says that instead of making daylight saving time permanent, we should be making standard time permanent, since that is the time our body clocks are used to.
“From the readings I’ve done, I see no clear benefit to daylight saving time.
“We should reevaluate the benefits of daylight saving; [we might discover that] it’s actually not beneficial and might actually cause more problems.”
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