With fall officially beginning on Thursday with the autumn equinox, many are already thinking ahead to a date later in the season when clocks change and skies turn dark at an earlier hour.
The time change is frequently referred to as “falling back,” nodding to the fall season and clocks turning back a full hour.
This means an extra hour of sleep from Nov. 5 to Nov. 6 and the beginning of shorter and darker days as clocks revert to Standard Time.
Many will benefit from extra hour of sleep, for others, it marks time when the days get shorter and darker. And for some, the change can even have significant health impacts on a person’s body.
While the US Senate unanimously passed a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent by voice vote, the House of Representatives has yet to take up the bill and President Biden’s administration has not formed a stance on the legislation.
Under the conditions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Daylight Saving Time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November, representing an extension from previous years.
Before that, the clocks had sprung ahead on the first Sunday in April and remained that way until the final Sunday in October.
According to the Department of Transportation, Daylight Saving Time has a number of benefits. The DOT’s website highlights the following:
- It saves energy. During Daylight Saving Time, the sun sets one hour later in the evenings, so the need to use electricity for household lighting and appliances is reduced. People tend to spend more time outside in the evenings during Daylight Saving Time, which reduces the need to use electricity in the home. Also, because the sunrise is very early in the morning during the summer months, most people will awake after the sun has already risen, which means they turn on fewer lights in their homes.
- It saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. During Daylight Saving Time, more people travel to and from school and work and complete errands during the daylight.
- It reduces crime. During Daylight Saving Time, more people are out conducting their affairs during the daylight rather than at night, when more crime occurs.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has been for years been calling for a permanent switch to standard time, saying “there is ample evidence of the negative, short-term consequences of seasonal time changes.”
Dr. Kathy Sexton-Radek, a consultant for the AASM Public Safety Committee and professor of psychology with a special interest in sleep medicine at Elmhurst College, said the time change can “skew or put off center the normal systems that trigger structures within our mind , within our brain that tell us through hormone cues and brain chemistry when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to be asleep.”
“The movement in time creates a type of need for orientation and reacclimating, which puts a person off-center,” she told NBC 5 Chicago.
Such shifts can cause mood changes, fatigue, concentration issues, and more, Sexton-Radek said.
“Light is the most powerful timing cue for the human body clock,” Erin Flynn-Evans, who has a doctorate in health and medical science and is director of the NASA Ames Research Center Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory, said in a statement. “Shifting to permanent daylight saving time in the winter would result in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, leading to misalignment between the body’s daily rhythm and the timing of routine social obligations, like work or school. That has the potential to make it harder for most people to fall asleep at night, disrupting sleep quality and leading to sleep loss, which can negatively impact health and safety.”
According to Sexton-Radek, mood changes, fatigue and an inability to concentrate are some of the biggest indicators your body isn’t adjusting to the time change properly.
“I suddenly think the sense of feeling annoyed or irritated because of something that was not detected might bring the person’s attention to the idea that they weren’t fully able to concentrate, the fatigue, perhaps a sleepiness was stealing some of their attention and their concentration ability,” she said.