Time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω

Image courtesy Muffet/Flickr (common license)

Image courtesy Muffet/Flickr (common license)

I’ve always known that Daylight Savings Time (DST) is just plain stupid.

I grew up in Saskatchewan, where they don’t use it and it confused me why other places did this whole “change your clocks” thing twice a year. After all, don’t they realize that they’re just screwing with themselves?

I assumed, in my youth, that some regions did this because they had jobs that needed a certain amount of light in order to accomplish and changing their workday so that there was a longer period of light was a benefit. But shortly after I thought of this (or was told…I don’t remember, I’m a bit more tired today than usual for some reason), I realized, “But why don’t those people just get up earlier or later so they can work when they need to be able to?”

Enacted during the First World War to save energy when electricity was obviously at a premium, the practise of turning the clocks back and forth an hour at two points in the year is not only outdated, but it turns out it’s actually dangerous for us as a society.

No, I’m not just talking about possibly reaching across the counter at Tim Horton’s when the idiot behind the counter made a one-cream-three-sugar instead of a three-cream-one-sugar because you’re both tired, I’m talking about actual statistics that say we just can’t handle shifting time like this.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2008 out of Sweden that found there to be approximately a seven per cent increase in heart attacks during the three working days after the clocks are reset in the spring.

It kind of comes out in the wash when you see the equivalent decrease in the same statistic in the fall when the clocks move the other way, but doesn’t that kind of observation itself tell you that maybe this ain’t good for our health?

Okay, what!? A press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated March 8, 2013 (originally released about the same time in 2007) says the following:

“Medical equipment you use could have been made before the DST rules were changed, and so your equipment may use the wrong dates for the start and end of daylight saving time.”

That can’t possibly cause any problems, though, right? I mean it’s probably just a documentation issue because the machines will be an hour off, yes?

“We do not know if any medical equipment will be affected, how it will be affected, or how it may affect patients. Although we don’t know what specific equipment may fail to work correctly, we are concerned about equipment that consumers or patients use in their homes,” said the FDA. The release is titled, “Advice for Patients: Change in Daylight Saving Time May Affect Your Medical Equipment in an Unpredictable Way.” That doesn’t sound good, let’s read on, shall we?

Actually, let’s check out another more concrete example of why this clock adjustment is a stupid idea, rather than dwelling on people telling us that they just don’t know if our medical equipment will work properly because we subscribe to it.

Sleep and Biological Rhythms, a scientific journal produced by the Japanese Society of Sleep Research published an Australian study in 2008 which concluded that, “small changes in chronobiological rhythms are potentially destabilizing in vulnerable individuals,” and that “male suicide rates rise in the weeks following the commencement of daylight saving, compared to the weeks following the return to eastern standard time and for the rest of the year.”

There are a ton of studies out there from actual smart people that say this is bad for us. Whether they are studying the number of times people are hit by cars crossing the street at various points of the year, or examining how it screws with people who already have sleep issues (and how many university students can say they don’t?), it’s time we listened to reason — and those smart people I mentioned earlier — and abolished this absurd practise.

I’m not moving back to Saskatchewan, but they’ve got it right on this one.