Thompson: Daylight savings harms students’ health

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Many of us woke up on Sunday feeling groggy. You might have felt more tired than usual, wondering why your internal clock didn’t match the one on your phone.

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For many, daylight savings time means nothing more than an unwelcome disruption of our normal schedule. We’ll lose an hour of sleep as we “spring forward” for the new season.

The abrupt shift in our circadian rhythm has a myriad of health consequences we’re more aware of now than in years past. In a world where one-third of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, we don’t need another reason to hinder these few peaceful hours.

Humans are fragile creatures, and our biological clocks are intertwined with the rhythm of the sunrise and sunset. While an hour might not seem like a big deal, our bodies say otherwise.

The seemingly arbitrary shift of time does actually have a method to its madness. Shifting our standard time to daylight saving time is a means to reduce electricity consumption by extending daylight hours. However, in modern society, people are typically awake before the sun rises and after it sets. More electricity will be used in the morning and might actually lead to greater electricity use, making the argument of saving electricity obsolete.

The benefits don’t seem to outweigh the costs; people are more likely to experience heart attacks, workplace injuries, strokes and become victims of motor vehicle accidents in the days following the time shift.

Humans are fragile creatures, and our biological clocks are intertwined with the rhythm of the sunrise and sunset. While an hour might not seem like a big deal, our bodies say otherwise.

Our bodies adjust to a biorhythm which we base our actions on, so if the timing is shifted, our actions are more likely to be “off.”

According to the Sleep Foundation, disrupting sleeping patterns can affect our memory, performance and concentration levels. Shifting sleeping patterns an hour forward is more difficult for some people than others.

Sleep is an integral and often overlooked component of physical and mental wellbeing and overall quality of life.  In fact, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems including how you think, react, learn and respond to others.

Mental health is also a large component of daylight saving time that doesn’t get much attention. According to Psychology Today, seasonal affective disorder is a component of major depressive disorder. The symptoms are largely the same — loss of interest in activities, anxiety and withdrawal from social interactions. The difference is that for those with SAD, their symptoms tend to peak in the winter months and resolve themselves in the spring.

A good night’s sleep helps improve learning. As college students, losing that hour of sleep might inadvertently affect their performance in the classroom over the next several days or weeks.

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Physical health is also impacted by a loss of sleep. According to a study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, with every hour of sleep lost, the risk of obesity goes up.

Deep sleep also supports healthy growth and development. As you sleep, hormones are triggered that promote growth in children and teenagers. Similarly, your immune system relies on sleep to help fight off harmful substances. We don’t have a reason to keep practicing daylight saving time given the effect it has on our collective sleeping patterns.

Daylight saving time is a mostly outdated form of energy saving that we don’t need to rely on. The research is clear — our health is negatively affected by losing an hour of sleep, and the unnecessary disruption does more harm than good.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison.