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Opinion | Daylight Saving Time Is Ending. Why Not Forever?

“Believe it or not, having light in the morning actually not only makes you feel more alert but helps you go to bed at the right time at night,” Beth Malow, director of the sleep division of Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News last year.

When social clocks are out of alignment with the solar clock, people experience what’s called “social jet lag.” As Erin Flynn-Evans and Cassie Hilditch wrote for the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms last year, there is mounting evidence that social jet lag has serious health effects, including short sleep duration, increased metabolic disorders, cardiovascular problems, mood disorders and even reduced life expectancy and increased risk of cancer.

The effect of social jet lag is so pronounced, the two researchers noted, that even “Individuals who live on the western side of a time zone, where there is more sunlight in the evening, have a higher risk of poor health and shorter life expectancy compared to those who live on the eastern side, where the sun rises and sets earlier relative to the clock time.”

By pushing the sunrise later into the morning hours, Daylight Time exacerbates social jet lag, Joseph Takahashi, the chair of the neuroscience department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told my colleague Jane Coaston on this week’s episode of “The Argument.”

“So if we went to permanent Daylight Saving Time, we would have additional months of this non-optimal phasing of our clocks, and that could lead to even higher incidence of cancer than we currently see in the United States,” he said. “I would say that’s the most compelling reason for why we should not adopt Daylight Saving Time because cancer, as you know, is the second major cause of death in the United States.”

As it happens, a plurality of Americans agree with Takahashi: 40 percent believe we should adopt Standard Time all year, according to a 2019 poll, compared with 31 percent who believe we should make Daylight Time permanent.

Both camps outnumber the 28 percent of Americans who prefer switching back and forth. But for now, at least, time is on their side.

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