Sleep experts object to year-round daylight saving time

One sleep expert is not enthused by the push to make daylight saving time permanent and said his colleagues feel the same way.

“It’s the consensus of the sleep medicine community that going to permanent daylight saving time is a mistake,” Dr. Nathaniel Watson told WTOP. “Essentially, it will dose every American with permanent jet lag.”

Watson is a professor of neurology at the University of Washington and co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center.

“The rising and setting of the sun has entrained our circadian rhythms — our biological clock — for countless millennia,” he said. With permanent daylight saving time, “you get our internal body clock out of sync with the sun clock.”



Daylight saving time takes light from the morning and puts it in the evening “and we know every additional hour of evening light results in 19 minutes less sleep,” Watson said. Less sleep is associated with a host of health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, mental health issues and an increased cancer risk, he said.

Additionally, “In the winter, when you’re waking up three hours or more before sunrise, that’s going to be painful.”

Watson said he wants to see standard time adopted year-round, but said the current system of two time changes a year is preferable to year-round daylight saving time.

He pointed out that permanent daylight saving time was tried before, back in the 1970s, and did not go well — with people complaining of problems, including dark mornings.

A shift to permanent daylight saving time would mean the D.C.-area would not have sunrises until nearly 8:30 a.m. in parts of December and January, though November and December’s early sunsets would be pushed back to around 5:45 p.m.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has said it “applauds the Senate for passing a bill to establish a national, fixed, year-round time in the U.S.” But it cautioned “that making daylight saving time permanent overlooks potential health risks that can be avoided by establishing permanent standard time instead.”

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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