We go through this ridiculous change for no good reason at all, yet it is unhealthy and dangerous.
For years I have been railing on about why we still have Railway Time, our time zone system developed for the convenience of those who wrote train schedules and then TV guides. Twice a year I complain about War Time, the Daylight Saving Time developed in the First World War to save coal and keep people working in the factories longer.
Except the war is over and we now have air conditioning and artificial lighting, so it doesn't actually save any energy at all. And now, there is a lot of evidence that these time changes are really bad for your health.The fall back switch, where we get an extra hour of sleep, is far less disruptive than the spring forward, but it still is problematic.
It can worsen depression.
A Danish study examined 185,419 diagnoses of depression between 1995 and 2012, expecting to find increasing depression rates as days got shorter. But they were surprised by the huge spike right after the time change.
The researchers controlled for variables like day length and weather, which they say confirms that the 8 percent rise in depression diagnoses was not a coincidence. And while their study focused on people with severe depression, the authors say the time shift likely affects “the entire spectrum of severity."
The authors of the study question whether it is more useful to have extra daylight in the evening rather than in the morning.
The study author points out that "We probably benefit less from the daylight in the morning between seven and eight, because many of us are either in the shower, eating breakfast or sitting in a car or bus on the way to work or school. When we get home and have spare time in the afternoon, it is already dark."
You are more likely to have a heart attack.
It's not nearly as likely as in the Spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, but just the messing up of all our Circadian rhythms causes trouble. According to David Samadi in the Observer,
When one’s circadian rhythm is disrupted even a little, sleeping and eating patterns can go haywire. There is even a growing body of research examining the long-term adverse health effects a disrupted circadian rhythm can have, like an increased chance of cardiovascular events, obesity, and a correlation with neurological problems like depression and bipolar disorder.
You are more likely to have a fatal car crash.
There is that sudden change in the light when we are used to a gradual shift. Our melatonin levels get out of whack. According to Joseph Gannon of the Sleep Disorders Clinic, quoted in the Telegraph,
Most people’s melatonin peaks at 8pm all the way through to 3am - 4am and it starts diminishing. If you’re then putting the clocks back you're inducing more sleepiness earlier on in the evening.
So suddenly there are a lot of slightly tired drivers, possibly driving home in the dark for the first time in half a year. Where I live, six pedestrians and one cyclist were hit by cars in the dark this morning. We will have to compare that to what happens on Monday afternoon after the time change.
You are more likely to get mugged.
Criminology students at the University of Pennsylvania were surprised to find that crime rose 3 percent after the clocks were turned back an hour; they thought sleep deprivation would increase crime, and here we are all getting an extra hour of sleep. Perhaps it is because it is darker earlier in the evening.
“Sleep problems have previously been associated with increased antisocial and criminal behavior, so we were surprised to find that increased sleep was associated with increased offending,” said study author Adrian Raine.
The fact is: our bodies don't like change. If the whole premise of War Time was to save energy and it doesn't, then we should just get rid of it. Pick the time that works best for the majority of people where you are, and stick to it all year round.