PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Which do you like better — the way we set our clocks for the winter or for the summer?
As we spring forward to Daylight Saving Time each year, for eight months, we have more sunshine for late day activities.
But this clock adjustment is hard on the body in two ways.
One is the time change.
“We were designed to wake up with the sunlight and sleep with the sunset,” said Allegheny Health Network Sleep Specialist Dr. Khalid Malik.
The human body is designed for a gradual lengthening and shortening of days with the seasons, not a disruptive one-hour shift.
Autopsy studies point to more events hazardous to your health occurring around the time of the switch, both spring and fall.
“Especially in spring, it’s more a problem because that leads to sleep deprivation,” Dr. Malik said. “It can lead to increase in accidents the next day, increased cardiac events, increased strokes.”
The other way the time change is hard on the body is the muddling of body rhythms.
In standard time — the four months in the winter when the clocks synch the way nature intended — the sun is directly overhead at noon.
“So the science is behind standard time,” Dr. Malik continues, “it’s more close to our biological clock.”
In the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, the body’s internal clock keeps time in response to light hitting the back of the eye.
Through the brain cell’s many connections, this influences alertness through areas in the brainstem, and as light subsides, it increases the release of the sleep hormone melatonin from the pineal gland.
With the introduction of artificial light, humans have further rattled the natural cues for sleeping and waking.
Considering the time change started as a legislative action to save energy, should it be legislated out to save lives?
“There’s a lot of politics involved and a lot of economy involved. The clocks should be left alone in the old-time and just stay there,” said Dr. Malik.
Alaska and Hawaii already do not observe Daylight Saving Time.
But keeping time winter’s way could be a hard sell for people who enjoy those “lighter later” summer evenings.