The Serious Side of Springing Forward

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The Serious Side of Springing Forward

by Alliance Medical Director Dr. Sharon Eloranta

Do you enjoy “springing forward” when we make the change from Standard Time (ST) to Daylight Savings Time (DST) each year? For many, this change is more than a minor annoyance. So many people dislike it so much that Washington state passed a law signed by Governor Jay Inslee in 2019, allowing for the year-round observance of DST.

In addition to the hassle factor, it turns out that the annual shift to DST could actually be bad for your health. A 2020 study shows a significant increase in healthcare safety-related incidents related to human error in the week following this transition, nearly 20%.

These errors and incidents, likely related to the lost hour of sleep, present a safety risk to patients.  In addition, errors that reach patients are often low-value care – from a missed diagnosis to a wrong-site surgery. To quote the study, “overall, the implementation of DST each year could potentially have substantial safety-related costs.” In addition to medical errors, Senator Murray cites other health-related effects to support the change, including a reduction in seasonal depression, heart problems, risk of stroke, and fatal car accidents.

Washington is not alone in its efforts to implement DST year-round; 18 other states have passed similar laws, including Oregon and Idaho. And It’s no wonder. Springing forward is much more than an inconvenience when you consider the health repercussions that result in people dying. Now it’s a public health and safety issue.

So, why is the time change still around? Up to now, federal law meant states do not have the authority to adopt DST permanently. But that may change. Washington U.S. Senator Patty Murray co-sponsored the bipartisan Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 that unanimously passed the Senate last month, making DST the new, permanent standard time for the nation. Now it goes to the House.

It bears mention that the change is somewhat controversial, particularly among early risers. Because of time and latitude differences, permanent DST will mean less morning daylight in the winter months in the Northwest. For example, on January 1st of this year, the sun rose in Nevada at 6:51 am, but in Washington, it rose more than an hour later, at 7:57 am. With permanent DST, the sun wouldn’t have risen until almost 9 am. Those who would rather wake with some daylight will be missing out in favor of those who prefer light in the evening.

Whether it’s DST or ST, the choice isn’t as important to me. I’m just ready to put an end to our biannual clock-changing.

For more on the “Lock the Clock” movement, click here.

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