Daylight Saving Time: A detriment to student health

Josette Corazza, Opinions Writer

This month marks 100 years since daylight saving time was first used in the U.S. The semiannual event began in Europe two years earlier and was eventually adopted in America as a way to save coal and energy during World War I.

A century later, daylight saving time is still a source of debate. Arizona and Hawaii do not use DST at all, instead opting for a standard time year-round. On the flip side, Florida lawmakers just passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent. DST negatively affects us as college students more than we may realize, and we should be aware of the impacts it has on our lives and our health.

According to the New York Times, extra daylight means extra time to spend money, and Americans are getting in their cars to go spend that money. More Americans really do leave their homes in the newly sunlit evenings, increasing widespread gasoline consumption. The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, a lobbying group for gas stations, has pushed to start daylight saving time earlier in the year. Those in the leisure industry also benefit from DST. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has lobbied on behalf of retailers selling gardening, home repair and sports (especially golf) equipment.

But farmers, religious groups that schedule prayer around sunrise and parents concerned about their children walking to school in the dark are some of the smaller interest groups averse to DST. I believe, however, that college students should also be included in the opposition. The springtime DST transition leads to disrupted sleep cycles. When we lost the hour of 2 a.m. on March 11, our bodies had to adjust to going to sleep earlier, which can leave people restless at night and cause sleepiness the next day.

According to CBS News, Americans lose an average of 40 minutes of sleep when they set clocks ahead in the spring. These sleep disturbances can lead to mood disruptions and can also affect memory, performance and concentration levels. As students, we need all the help we can get in concentrating during our 8 a.m. classes. Any amount of sleep deprivation can affect hormone levels in the body, which can lead to changes in diet that include fluctuating appetite, an increase in cravings and potential overeating. Sleep disturbances can also increase insulin resistance and encourage the body to store more calories in fat. If you found yourself getting second helpings at D-Hall last Sunday, now you know why.

Research has also shown spikes in car crashes following DST changes. Many Americans are already sleep deprived, and even a small reduction in hours can have serious consequences. In a study being published in the American Economic Journal next month, researchers analyzed vehicle accidents just before and after DST in the U.S. over a 10-year period. The results showed a 6 percent increase in crashes immediately after people reset their clocks in the spring, which amounted to more than 300 deaths. All senior students drive to campus for classes each day—this issue affects our school as well, and it should not be ignored.

Some tips to adjust to DST include increasing exposure to light (ideally sunlight) as soon as you wake up, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants after lunchtime and avoiding driving if you are sleep deprived.