One time, Standard Time

B.C. Premier Horgan has a good idea in getting rid of the semi-annual upset of our biological rhythms by switching clocks back and forth. Horgan has a bad idea in proposing that we should be on Daylight Savings Time year-around.

image: RASC Calgary Centre

Standard Time is closer to our biological clocks. The argument in favour of permanent DST is that it’s lighter in the evening. Sure, that may be true in the summer when there are plenty of hours in the day. But in winter, it means one less hour of sunshine in the morning.

I hate getting up in the dark to go for my morning walk and deliver my newspapers. But there’s more to it than convenience.  On Standard Time, my body is more aligned with nature.

Standard Time is closer to body time.  At solar noon, that’s when the sun is highest in the sky. Time zones are wide, which means there is only one place on the map where the clock aligns with solar time.

Chronobiologists refer to the time on the clock time as “social clock” time because people in an area defined by political boundaries, such as provinces, all agree on what time it is.

In Kamloops, when we are on Standard Time, noon actually occurs at a solar time of 11:45am. When we are on Daylight Savings Time, noon occurs at 12:45pm. In other words, our body time is off by only 15 minutes when on Standard Time but 45 minutes off when on Daylight Savings Time.

It’s not just a matter of being able to see in winter mornings; Standard Time is healthier. Professors Nicolas Cermakian, Patricia Lakin-Thomas, and Tami Martino write on behalf of the Canadian Society for Chronobiology:

“But importantly, it’s the light in the morning that is most important in resetting our biological clocks (Globe and Mail, November 2, 2012).”

Chronobiologists study biological timing. When our body clocks don’t match the social clock, it’s like “social jet lag,” just like the jet lag you experience when you fly across time zones and find yourself out of sync with the new local time.  Social jet lag can cause many problems including disrupted sleep, increased risk of accidents, lower productivity at work and in school, and increased risk of negative health impacts. Permanent Standard Time would move body time closer to social time while Daylight Savings Time would move it further away.

Chronobiologists find that even differences in a time zone can affect health. If the sun rises in the eastern edge of a time zone where the body time and the social time are about the same, people in the western edge are rising as much as an hour earlier than body time. Professor Cermakian and the other Chronobiologists say:

“Analysis of health data from millions of people shows that people on the western edges of time zones get about 19 minutes less sleep every night than people on the east, and also have significantly higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart attacks than people on the eastern edges. Even scarier, cancer rates significantly increase when the sunrise is later on the western edges.”

Establishing a permanent time is not a trivial matter. Think carefully, Premier Horgan.



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