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Daylight saving time will make you feel worse, but has its advantages

Daylight saving time: Does it hurt your health?

A sleep expert from the University of California at Davis says the switch to daylight saving time takes a definite physical toll, but can have other benefits.
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A sleep expert from the University of California at Davis says the switch to daylight saving time takes a definite physical toll, but can have other benefits.

A legislative proposal to abolish daylight saving time in California has reignited all the usual arguments about why the annual springing forward of our clocks is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea: It causes an uptick in car accidents. Energy use actually goes up, not down as intended.

But what about people? Does daylight saving time hurt our health?

The science says yes – at least in the short term. Besides potentially losing sleep, with the fatigue and diminished performance that causes, the hour shift throws off our internal rhythms. Dr. Jamal Mohammed, an assistant clinical professor and co-medical director of sleep medicine in the UC Davis Health System, compares it to jet lag.

“The next day your mind is not functioning at its best, and you’re still trying to readjust your clock in your body,” he said. “It takes about a week or two to get completely readjusted.”

Mohammed suggests preparing your body before daylight saving time kicks in by going to bed 15 or 20 minutes earlier. If that’s not possible, he said, then don’t sleep in on Sunday morning to make up for the lost hour; rather, get at up at the same time and go for a walk.

“The daytime light will actually cause your body to shift its own bedtime a little earlier than what’s your habitual bedtime,” he said.

As for the bill from Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose – which would give California voters the ultimate say on daylight saving time’s fate – Mohammed recommends moving in the other direction and implementing it all year long. He points to studies that show an uptick of physical activity in places that have done this, because of the hour of extra light at the end of the day.

“Rather than getting rid of it, just keep it the same throughout the year,” he said, “so that people won’t have the problem in adjusting to the clocks.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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