- Daylight-saving time in the US begins on Sunday, March 14, 2021 at 2 a.m.
- That morning, most phones and computers will automatically tick forward one hour, and we’ll lose an hour of sleep.
- Incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and fatal car crashes all spike around the start of DST.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Daylight-saving time is a killer.
The annual ritual in which we “gain” an hour of evening light in the summertime by pushing the clocks forward one hour each spring may seem like a harmless shift.
But every year on the Monday after the switch, hospitals report a 24% spike in heart-attack visits around the US.
Just a coincidence? Probably not. Doctors see an opposite trend each fall: The day after we turn back the clocks, heart attack visits drop 21% as many people enjoy a little extra pillow time.
“That’s how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep,” sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of “How We Sleep,” previously told Insider.
The reason that springing the clocks forward can kill us comes down to interrupted sleep schedules. This Sunday, March 14, instead of the clock turning from 1:59 to 2:00 a.m. as usual, it will tick forward to 3:00 a.m.
For those of us who will be asleep in bed, researchers estimate we’ll all deprive ourselves of an extra 40 minutes of sleep because of the clock change. And night-shift workers will get paid only for the seven hours of work they completed instead of their usual eight-hour paycheck, according to federal law.
Over the long haul, the interrupted sleep schedules that result from shifting the clocks back and forth twice a year may be bad for our health. Our bodies may not fully recover from the shift for weeks, though the tragic heart attack trend only lasts about a day.
We’re also prone to make more deadly mistakes on the roads: Researchers estimate that car crashes in the US caused by sleepy daylight-saving drivers likely cost 30 extra people their lives over the nine-year period from 2002-2011. The problems don’t stop there. DST also causes more reports of injuries at work, more strokes, and may lead to a temporary increase in suicides.
Walker said daylight-saving time, or DST, is a kind of “global experiment” we perform twice a year. And the results show just how sensitive our bodies are to the whims of changing schedules: In the fall the shift is a blessing; in the spring it’s a fatal curse.
Why we ‘save’ daylight for the later hours of the day
Daylight-saving time was originally concocted as a way to save energy in the evening, and was implemented during World War I in Germany. But more recent research suggests it’s probably not saving us any megawatts of power at all. There is some evidence, however, that extra evening light can reduce crime and increase the time people spend exercising, at least in certain climates.
Worldwide, fewer than half of all countries participate in this biannual clock-changing ritual.
Not everyone in the US follows it either. Hawaii and Arizona ignore DST, since it makes less sense to shift the clocks when you live near the equator, where the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time every day.
Residents and lawmakers in California and Florida are also trying to ditch the switch. Voters in the Golden State opted to get rid of the annual clock change in the 2018 midterm elections, and Florida lawmakers enacted the “Sunshine Protection Act” that March, aimed at doing the same thing.
Thirteen more states have angled to move to year-round DST since then, with proposed legislation. But the shift to a permanent daylight-saving-time plan isn’t something states can decide for themselves: The measures require a green light from Congress to take effect, something both California and Florida, as well as the others (Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) have yet to receive.
This year, some lawmakers are pushing to ditch the switch nationwide. A bipartisan group of eight US Senators reintroduced a bill earlier this week that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the entire US. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who introduced the bill, tweeted that the current biannual time change is “senseless.”
“More daylight in the evenings results in fewer car accidents & robberies,” Rubio added. “And it allows kids to play outside longer. #LockTheClock”
But for now, the tradition inevitably costs some their lives. So while you might enjoy seeing a little more evening light next week, be extra-careful with your heart – and out on the road, too.