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

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

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.

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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?