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Ending daylight saving time may be bad for our health — in fact, some experts want it increased

As someone who’s at her desk every weekday morning at 6 a.m. to write this blog, I’m looking forward to the switch to standard time from daylight saving time this weekend.

We will, of course, gain an hour of morning daylight, starting Sunday. That means an earlier sunrise — and a chance to linger longer under the duvet.

Some health experts argue, though, that not only should we stick to daylight saving time this winter but should also push it ahead an additional hour next spring — and then keep it there.

Dr. Mayer Hillman, a public policy specialist at the Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster in London, is one such expert. As he argued in the British Medical Journal last week (Britain pushed its clocks back last weekend), having more sunlight at the end of our day would give us more opportunities to stay healthy.

The problem, he writes, “is that on average over the year only one or two of our waking hours in the mornings are spent in darkness whereas nearly half of the 10-11 waking hours after midday are in darkness. The critical limiting factor is obviously the onset of dusk.”

We’d be happier if our mornings were darker and our evenings lighter, he says:

Research has shown that people are happier, more energetic, and less likely to be sick in the longer and brighter days of summer, whereas their mood tends to decline — and anxious and depressive states to intensify — during the shorter and duller days of winter. People have a greater sense of wellbeing in daylight and overwhelmingly prefer it to artificial light. The common reaction to the prospect of less daylight and sunlight when the clocks are put back at the end of October, signaling as it does the end of outdoor activity and the onset of a largely indoor leisure life, is a negative one.

We’d also be healthier, says Hillman:

As most children are restricted from going out after dark, the lighter evenings would enable parents to let them spend more time outdoors. A significant majority of older people impose a curfew on themselves, preventing them from going out after dark, owing to anxiety about assault, and poorer vision and hearing. The extra hour of evening daylight would lessen these concerns and enable far wider take-up of outdoor leisure and social activities. The additional hours of daylight would considerably increase opportunities for outdoor leisure activities: about 300 more for adults and 200 more for children each year, given typical daily patterns of activity.

According to Hillman, surveys have found that people in England and Wales favor his time reform by about 4:1. In Scotland, which is further north, they’re about equally divided on the issue.

Of course, Britain has a lot more hours of winter darkness than Minnesota. On Jan. 1, sunrise will be at 8:06 a.m. and sunset at 4:02 in London, compared with 7:51 a.m. and 4:42 p.m. in the Twin Cities. (You can track down all sorts of odd information on the Internet.)

What say you, MinnPost readers? Would your mood improve and would you exercise more often if you had more daylight in the evening?

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Kelly O'Brien on 11/05/2010 - 09:36 am.

    We spend more time in DST than in standard time, and I think it’s silly. If one needs more sunlight to be happier, then get up an hour earlier. I’m in favor of reducing DST back to the length we had before the expansion in 2007, if not even further. And I’ll never believe that we are saving energy by extending DST–I’m just turning on more lights in the morning rather than the evening.

  2. Submitted by Garrett Peterson on 11/05/2010 - 10:37 am.

    I’m a huge DST supporter, and I’m already getting depressed about the fact that it ends this weekend.

    Mornings are spent getting ready for work, commuting, and working. I’d much rather have daylight in the evenings after the work day is done.

  3. Submitted by Josh Williams on 11/05/2010 - 10:40 am.

    I’m just happy to get an extra hour of weekend, this weekend.

  4. Submitted by Phil Dech on 11/05/2010 - 11:20 am.

    The walk to my child’s bus stop is getting pretty dark, I’ll appreciated it being lighter come Monday for that safety concern.

  5. Submitted by Cathy Madison on 11/05/2010 - 11:33 am.

    Let’s just keep DST year-round. Better to get up in the dark and anticipate the sunrise than have night set in before we get home (or go out) for dinner. And better yet? Move the MinnPost deadline one hour later, so staff gets to sleep an extra hour — much healthier for sleep-deprived folks. Which is most of us, right?

  6. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 11/05/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    Agreed with Garrett. I don’t need the sun coming up at 7am in the middle of November. What am I using daylight for at that time? Nothing. It would be more useful at the end of the day when I’m home and the sun is still shining into my big windows in the living and dining rooms. I could sit and play with my baby daughter without turning lights on.

    The sunrise on Monday will be 7.00am. Sunset is 4.51pm. I’d rather it be shifted forward an hour.

  7. Submitted by Nathan Campeau on 11/05/2010 - 02:11 pm.

    Or we could just wake up earlier and enjoy the sun on its schedule.

  8. Submitted by Lance Groth on 11/05/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    Call me a curmudgeon – I say eliminate DST and stop messing around with the clocks. As a nightowl, I’m happy with darkness. One time scheme year round, please, and let’s move on to more important things.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/05/2010 - 04:39 pm.

    Very much a morning person all my life, I don’t care all that much if the evenings are longer, and I wake up as soon as the sky begins to brighten no matter what the clock says. Standard, Daylight, Phoenician or Martian – the “official” time makes no difference unless I have an appointment I have to keep early in the day. I sleep longer in the winter than in the summer by at least a couple hours.

    However, I can see how parents with small and/or school-aged children would be less enthused about the kids catching the school bus in pitch darkness in the AM, and when my own children were small, I appreciated the extra daylight hours for opportunities for play after I’d gotten home from work and they from school.

    As an old retiree, it makes no difference to me.

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