Daylight Savings Time Is a Matter of Life and Death—Literally

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act of 2023, a follow-up to a similar bill introduced two years ago. If the bill is passed and receives the blessing of Joe Biden, permanent daylight saving time would take effect later this year. We may very well have witnessed the last clock change in U.S. history. If the bill is signed into effect, it will have a profound impact on people’s sleep-wake cycles. It will also have a profound impact on the country’s crime rates.

Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Evanston, Illinois, told CNN that she completely opposes daylight savings time (DST) for one simple reason: the disruption of our circadian rhythms. These internal, 24-hour “clocks,” responsible for the regulation of millions of metabolic processes, tell the body when to eat, sleep, and wake up.

“Between March and November your body gets less morning light and more evening light, which can throw off your circadian rhythm,” said Zee.

Unlike standard time, which closely mirrors the sun’s day and night cycle, DST negatively impacts one’s ability to get a decent night’s sleep. More than 110 million American adults are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is linked to a whole host of debilitating health problems, including depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and obesity.

Sleep deficiency also plays a major role in workplace accidents (sleep-deprived workers are 70 percent more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than their well-rested colleagues) and car crashes. Research shows that drivers who get between six and seven hours of sleep have a 1.3 times greater chance of being involved in a car accident; those who get between five and six hours, meanwhile, have a 1.9 times greater chance of being injured, or injuring someone, on the road. The average American gets considerably less than seven hours of sleep per night. A move to DST is unlikely to improve their quantity or quality of sleep.

Moreover, each year, due to the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation, the U.S. economy experiences up to $411 billion in losses. Again, a move to DST is likely to weaken the U.S. economy, not strengthen it.

However, it’s not all bad news. A move to permanent DST would likely result in far less violent crime occurring. Research (pdf) carried out by Jennifer Doleac, a researcher at the University of Texas, and Cornell’s Nicholas J. Sanders clearly showed that the more ambient light we have in a given day, the less violent crime we’re exposed to.

According to the researchers, in the weeks after DST begins, “Daily cases of robbery, a violent and socially costly street crime, decrease by approximately 7%,” with “a 19% drop in the probability of any robbery occurring.” Interestingly, the researchers also pointed out that a “27% decrease in the robbery rate during the sunset hours drives much of this result.”

The relationship between DST and fewer robberies is a multifaceted one. The authors include a number of reasons why the relationship exists, some of them more obvious than others:

(1) Daylight discourages potential offenders from engaging in criminal behavior because of increased visibility.

(2) DST increases foot traffic “at key times due to the later sunset, which might increase the number of potential witnesses.”

(3) Changes in the schedules of potential offenders “due to the later sunset (later family dinners or sports practices, substitution for their own leisure, etc.) might make them unavailable to commit crime until after most potential victims have gone home.”

When it comes to crime, the first two points show that DST should be considered a direct deterrent, while the third explanation, note the authors, “implies an incapacitation effect that does not rely on incarceration.” They also highlight the fact that a switch to DST results in a dramatic decrease in cases of rape, aggravated assault, and murder.

As is clear to see, DST is very much a mixed bag, full of pros and cons. Before accepting or rejecting the bill, both the benefits of crimes avoided and the aforementioned health-related costs (sleep deprivation, accidents in the workplace and on the road, etc.) must be taken into account. Only then, after careful consideration, should any decision be made.

DST is very much a matter of life and death—quite literally.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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