Daylight Savings Being Called A Public Health Concern

On Sunday, daylight saving time concluded, and across most of Canada, people adjusted their clocks back one hour to revert to standard time.

Speaking to CTV National News, Michael Antle, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary, highlighted that resetting the clocks provides an opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Antle explained that this adjustment aligns our circadian clocks with our work schedules and the natural solar day, leading to a more refreshed Monday morning.

Antle elaborated on how our physiology and sleep-wake patterns are governed by the circadian clock, which closely tracks the break of dawn. He noted that our bodies naturally tend to follow the pattern of daylight, which becomes problematic in Canada and other northern countries when winter days grow extremely short, and dawn occurs later and later in the day, causing our circadian clocks to shift towards a later time.

According to Antle, the one-hour gain when setting the clocks back in November is generally easier for individuals to adapt to compared to the one-hour loss when transitioning to daylight saving time in March.

Rebecca Robillard, co-chair of the Canadian Sleep Research Consortium, concurred that the negative health effects during time changes in November are milder than those experienced in March. Nevertheless, she emphasized that some people may still notice a difference during this weekend’s transition.

In the fall, certain effects, such as increased anxiety, depression, and substance use, particularly among males, tend to stand out more, according to Robillard. Studies have shown that the shift to daylight saving time in March can lead to an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and adverse impacts on the digestive and immune systems.

Both Antle and Robillard pointed out that the severity of these effects can vary depending on a person’s location within a time zone. Those residing further west within a time zone may experience more intense effects due to differences in sunrise and sunset times.

Antle explained that individuals living on the western edges of time zones have a similar experience to those living in permanent daylight saving time, whereas those on the eastern edge live as if in permanent standard time. People on the western edge get around 19 minutes less sleep every night, adding up to over 100 hours less sleep annually.

Robillard deemed this situation a “public health concern” and supported the growing sentiment among sleep researchers for the abolition of daylight saving time.

While Ontario passed a bill in 2020 to eliminate the biannual time change, it will only take effect if Quebec and New York also do the same. In 2019, British Columbia voted in favor of similar legislation, contingent on neighboring states making the shift. However, a U.S. federal bill aimed at discontinuing the time change remains inactive south of the border.

It’s worth noting that in most of Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and some other specific regions of Canada, people won’t be adjusting their clocks this weekend. Saskatchewan, with the exception of some border communities, observes central standard time year-round.

Robillard emphasized the importance of exploring whether Saskatchewan’s approach may hold the key to addressing these concerns. She pointed out that the impact of time changes varies significantly depending on one’s location within Canada, affecting different individuals in different ways.

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