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Study: Daylight Saving Time has long-term negative brain effects

Posted at 6:25 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 18:25:28-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — According to new research, Daylight Saving Time (DST) isn't just annoying -- it may have a negative, long term impact on our brains.

New research conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville suggests that Daylight Saving Time reduces the amount of bright morning light received by the body, which they say has "profound impacts" on our biological clocks. Over time, researchers say DST eliminates bright morning light that critically synchronizes biologic clocks.

“People think the one-hour transition is no big deal, that they can get over this in a day, but what they don’t realize is their biological clock is out of sync,” says Dr. Beth Ann Malow, professor of Neurology and Pediatrics in the Sleep Disorders Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The study shows that the misalignment of our body clocks occurs for eight months out of the year, not just the one-hour change we deal with twice a year. Transition seasons are associated with increased risk of heart attack and ischemic stroke, as well as other negative effects of partial sleep deprivation.

"When we talk about DST and the relationship to light we are talking about profound impacts on the biological clock, which is a structure rooted in the brain. It impacts brain functions such as sleep-wake patterns and daytime alertness,” said Malow."

Even worse, average sleep duration shrinks by 15 to 20 minutes for adults during DST transitions, which may increase the risk of fatal accidents. While some people have more flexible internal clocks and can adjust quickly, others, like certain children with autism, can struggle to adjust to daylight saving time for weeks and even months.

The research team says they decided to publish their findings in an effort to encourage getting rid of the “fall back” or “spring forward," practice altogether. However, political support for the permanent change has been spotty at best.

Both Florida and Tennessee have passed legislation supporting permanent DST, however, enacting the change would require approval from the U.S. Congress.