Saturday, March 7, 2020

Daylight Saving Time - As Dumb As Ever And Now Bad For Your Health Too

"It’s not one hour twice a year. It’s a misalignment of our biologic clocks for eight months of the year. When we talk about DST and the relationship to light we are talking about profound impacts on the biological clock, which is a structure rooted in the brain. It impacts brain functions such as sleep-wake patterns and daytime alertness,”-    Beth Ann Malow, MD, Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development, and professor of Neurology and Pediatrics in the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center

I always felt DST or 'Daylight Saving Time' was a dumb notion. But since the U.S. labor sector and its corporate overseers generally demand a rigid work schedule, I could see at least some minimal benefit to family guys who couldn't get home from the office until nearly 6.30 or 7:00 p.m. and wanted some time to go out and play catch with the kids - or just take a walk.  This was generally an understandable and practical application. (At the same time, of course, workers will have to adjust to waking up an hour earlier for work by tomorrow - traced to increased frequency of heart attacks owing to the disruption of the circadian rhythm.)

But then a new meme struck which hailed the benefits of DST as an "energy saver". My bull pockey  and PR radar instantly went off, given that  energy saving meme has since been rendered provably false. In fact, DST wastes marginally more energy than just leaving clocks on standard time.  As one recent Denver Post letter writer put it:

"If you do not want to have to change our clocks, year round standard time should be implemented."

There are also good, sound scientific reasons for this. First and foremost our biological clocks - based on circadian rhythms - are attuned to standard time, which is also Sun time (following apparent solar time).   This can easily be assessed using a simple shadow stick apparatus, i.e.          

Thus, one hour of apparent solar time passes for every 15 degrees of longitude the Earth rotates on its axis.   Thus, one standard time zone would be generated via (360 deg/ 24 hr) = 15 deg/h or 15 degrees of longitude per hour - so be 15 degrees of longitude in expanse.   To be sure, the Sun's "natural time" (apparent solar)  is slightly erratic (by minutes, not hours) because it’s based literally on sundial time, and what’s called the equation of time.  E.g.
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The slight time differences, notwithstanding,  this natural sundial time most closely approximates standard time and more importantly the day-light cycles to which the body is attuned.   As pointed out by Prof. Till Roennenberg, president of the World Federation of Societies for Chronobiology: 

 "Most of our physiology is governed by a circadian clock. This body clock synchronizes to sun time."   

But what if DST is thrown into the mix?  Well, in DST the dark-light cycle doesn't change but the time does.  That's the core problem because it means the body clock of circadian rhythms is thrown off. So there is a discrepancy between your biological clock and social clock (which governs time to get up for work, eat, sleep etc.)  This then creates what those like Prof. Roennenberg call a "social jet lag". (WSJ, 'Why Daylight Saving Times Is Bad For You', March 5, p. A12).  

As he goes on to point out (ibid.): "Daylight Saving Time means that we virtually live in another time zone without changing the day-light cycle. The problem is the misalignment. The circadian clock is trying to optimize our physiology . Now suddenly we have to do things which are not at the biologically appropriate time. It's a general stress of the physiology.""

For example, let's get down to basic biology: Say your body clock is set so you generally have a bowel movement at 6 a.m.,  before leaving for work at 7:00 a.m. But with the DST change tomorrow you now have to push everything back by an hour, say now having to get that dump in at the standard time of 5 a.m. which is now equal to the DST 6 a.m..  But to your body it's too early, so you end up unable to do it, and have to go to work in that state.  (And hope you don't get caught in a traffic jam!)

Hence we learn (ibid.):  "The acute effect of daylight saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, studies show. The risk is usually in the days following the switch, and not long term, raising questions about whether the time change is triggering heart attacks that would happen anyway."

Prof. Beth Ann Malow of Vanderbilt, isn't biting.  As she writes in a recent opinion piece in JAMA Neurology,  e.g.

Switching between DST and standard time is bad for the brain.  As she writes:

"Going back and forth is ridiculous and makes no sense." 

 And not only that but there is good evidence it significantly lowers productivity which the economists are always fretting over.  Thus, a survey conducted by the American Association of Sleep Medicine showed that  55 % of Americans reported feeling tired  after the transition to DST.  Further, "the group's health advisory says moving into and out of DST can adversely affect sleeping and waking patterns for 5- 7 days."

Well, think about it. Whereas before Sunday you awakened at 7:15 a.m. to arrive at work by 8:00 a.m. that now becomes effectively a wake up time of 6:15 a.m. because the clock time is moved one hour ahead. Everything is shifted and you're trying to catch up to the change because of it, as well as having lost an hour of sleep - and also on successive days.

The usual response to that is: "Well go to bed an hour earlier!"  But it's not so simple because you're body clock has already been set to a certain sleep time and wake up time.  All going to bed an hour earlier will mean is lying awake for an hour and tossing unless you take an Ambien - which has its own effects.

Is there a better alternative than doing this dumbo switching from standard time to DST and back each year?  Yes, and one Denver Post letter writer (Annika Reuter) provided it last Sunday (p. 3D):

"A better solution for our health would combine permanent standard time with increased advocacy for flexible work schedules  so that more people can work and play in a way that aligns with their individual body rhythms."

Ah, but see, that may be way too common sensical (and practical) solution for this country - at least for its business coroporatocracy.

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