NOVEMBER 2016 ;e Costco Connection 23
YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
THE REASON TO abolish daylight saving time (DST) is not because people hate to
change the clocks (they do) or because people end up missing appointments (they do
that too). The reason is that the shift is simply not good for us. Accumulating research
indicates that when we make the springtime shift from standard to daylight saving
time our bodies find it difficult to adapt to the time change. This is because people
have internal body clocks that regulate sleep and wake cycles. Even though the clocks
on the walls change with DST, our body clocks are not so readily changed.
The implication of this mismatch between clock time and biological time is that
people are unlikely to get to bed as early as they normally do following the time
change, even though they may have morning routines that necessitate a set wake-up
time. In a study of more than 10,000 working Americans, my colleague and I found
that people in locales following DST slept an average of 40 minutes less on the Sunday
to Monday night following the spring shift to DST. Innocuous as this may seem, such
a modest amount of sleep deprivation has nasty effects. Notably, a study in the New
England Journal of Medicine reported an increased incidence of heart attacks on the
day following the shift to DST.
My own work has shown that workers in risky professions, such as mining, are
much more likely to get injured on the Monday after the shift to DST. These injuries
are unusually severe. White-collar workers are also affected by the shift, as they are
more likely to surf the web instead of working on the business day following the shift.
The impact on the U.S. economy of only three of these adverse consequences
(heart attacks, injuries and cyber-loafing) was estimated at $434 million annually.
Research also indicates that people tend to exhibit lower levels of ethicality, moral
awareness and self-control, and higher levels of overt racial prejudice and workplace
incivility, as they operate on lower-than-average levels of sleep, suggesting that the
costs of shifting to DST are much higher.
The evidence has accumulated to suggest that the shift to DST has its risks. Should
we follow standard time or daylight saving time? As far as the research goes, it might
not matter. What does matter is that we stop changing the clocks so that we can stop
harming ourselves. C
EVEN THOUGH THE biannual time change has been implicated in a growing litany of woes, the news isn’t entirely bad. Travel is generally safer in the light of day, so
shifting an hour of sunlight from the morning to the evening makes it safer for pedestrians, runners and cyclists out later in the day. Of course, it makes it less safe for
morning travelers, but more people are out later in the day, so extending the springtime change reduces overall injuries and fatalities.
So, how could anyone argue in favor of maintaining the status quo? If criticisms
are correct, choosing one standard time and sticking with it seems like a no-brainer.
One response is that the real benefit of DST is the extra hour of spring and summer evening recreation, including barbecues, youth sports, bocce on the lawn and
myriad other activities. If we were to quantify these benefits, the argument goes, they
would swamp the various costs of switching back and forth.
A second response is that there simply isn’t a policy option that will make everyone
(or anyone) happy. Establishing year-round DST certainly mitigates many of the ills
listed above, but it would also permanently shift the elevated risks and other costs and
annoyances to morning people. Believe me, I have heard an earful from early birds who
dislike exercising or commuting in the pre-dawn hours, and emphatically from parents
who don’t like sending their children to the bus stop when it is pitch black outside.
Consider that if we adopted year-round DST in my home of Appleton, the sun would
not rise until after 7 a.m. for four months of the year, and it wouldn’t rise until after 8
a.m. during late December and early January. That seems like a pretty dreary prospect.
Although I doubt we are going to make everybody happy, there is room for sensible, incremental compromise. For instance, Congress moved the return to standard
time from late October into early November, partly to extend the daylight and mitigate risks for trick-or-treaters. With Halloween second only to New Year’s Day in
terms of pedestrian fatalities, it’s hard to argue with that. C
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Should daylight saving time
is an associate
professor and chair
of the department
of economics at
Lawrence University in Appleton,
David T. Wagner
is an assistant
professor of management at the
of Business at the
University of Oregon, and the editor
of the forthcoming
book Work and
Insights for the
2016; not available
Is the Textalyzer a good
way to prevent texting
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