Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, welcome back to The Takeaway. This weekend, many of us enjoyed an extra hour of sleep, courtesy of the end of daylight savings time, but Senator Marco Rubio is not sounding well rested and refreshed.
Senator Marco Rubio: We don't have to keep doing this stupidity anymore. Why we would enshrine this in our laws and keep it for so long is beyond me, but hopefully, this is the year that this gets done. Pardon the pun, but this is an idea whose time has come.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In March, the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act. If passed by the house, it could make daylight savings time, the new permanent standard time across the country by November 2023. Dr. Karin Johnson is a neurologist and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at Bay State Health in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Johnson, welcome to The Takeaway.
Dr. Karin Johnson: Hello.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We're talking about the position of the sun and the internal clocks of our bodies, but you are here to tell us, in part, that there are some maybe hidden disparities associated with this.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yes, the effects really have to do partly with our body's clocks as well as what we do with our daily schedules. Teenagers have later clock times. They tend to sleep in really late, have a difficulty falling asleep. They have a much harder time when they get those bright light cues at night and miss morning light. That morning light is really needed to sink their schedules back to the 24-hour rhythm. Otherwise, it just makes it harder and harder for them to stay on track.
Then the other group are people that have to get up early. If you have brighter light at night and harder times falling asleep, but still have to get up for work or school or to be a parent to get your kids off to school, you're much more likely to lose sleep and have more fragmented sleep. On average, people lose about 19 minutes of sleep, but if you have to get up by 7:00 AM, then you lose about 36 minutes of sleep every day throughout daylight savings time.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, we have tried this permanent daylight savings time before. Did it work?
Dr. Karin Johnson: The United States tried it back in 1918, a little farther back, as well as 1974. Both times, it was ended in unpopularity, especially in 1974. People noted that there was an increase in children being killed at their school buses, and that was part of the strong push to end daylight savings time only after a few months. We reverted back to seasonal daylight savings time the next year.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Why were children dying at their bus stops?
Dr. Karin Johnson: The longest periods of darkness are actually in the south, so the eight deaths that occurred were actually in Florida three to four months with those sunrises after eight o'clock. Most children are going to school much before that and most people are at work with an average work start time around 8:00 AM. Because commute time in the morning lines closer up to school bus times, when those two are matched in the dark, it leads to much more fatalities in the afternoon when school bus times are usually misaligned from the main commute time.
Melissa Harris-Perry: If this isn't the solution, going to a permanent delight savings time, are there solutions? Presumably this back and forth, I mean the very reason presumably the Senate unanimously voted for it, which they rarely do, is they've seen some evidence suggesting that it could be valuable.
Dr. Karin Johnson: We certainly want to end clock change, but there's harms to being long-term on daylight savings time and we think, "Well, we're on it for eight months a year, how bad could it get?" Those last four months where we really lose that morning sun really exponentially worsen some of the health effects. A lot of us aren't even aware of the health effects that are already happening and making it harder to lose weight, increasing cardiovascular disease. We want to end time change, but we want to end it with permanent standard time.
The rest of the world is already on standard time. Mexico just last week voted to change to standard time. Russia, they tried daylight savings time permanently for three years and they actually had higher rates of [unintelligible 00:04:16] depression that were then lower than even seasonal daylight savings time when they switched to permanent standard time. Being on the right time really helps, again, our function, our mood, our health, and a lot of other aspects of our lives.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Dr. Karin Johnson is Professor of Neurology at UMass Chan Medical School, Baystate. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
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