Mar 8, 2024 - News

Seattle to spring ahead, after pitch to end time switch fails

Illustration of a classic analog alarm clock reading 10:00 with shifty, heavy eyes inside the digits

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

We "spring ahead" to daylight saving time Sunday at 2am, even though many sleep experts wish we wouldn't.

Why it matters: Numerous medical societies favor standard time over daylight saving time because it's more aligned with our body clocks, Fred Hutch epidemiologist Trang VoPham told Axios.

Yes, but: It's the first post-7pm sunset that sun-starved Seattleites will see since Sept. 25.

State of play: Legislators in Washington voted five years ago to do away with standard time, but that change requires congressional approval that never came.

  • In another effort to get off the time-changing seesaw, lawmakers introduced a bill this year that would have abolished daylight saving time — a move that does not require federal approval — but it did not make it out of committee.
  • This week, the Oregon Senate narrowly approved a bill to make standard time permanent — but only if fellow West Coast states follow suit.

The big picture: Research shows that the abrupt seasonal shift in time disrupts circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disturbances, increased fatigue and a heightened risk of heart attacks and strokes, said James A. Rowley, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

  • He adds that right after the clocks shift in March, there's "a spike in workplace accidents, road accidents and medical errors due to sleep deprivation and cognitive impairment."

Zoom in: The transition is even harder on residents of the Emerald City and others who live in the western region of their time zone, according to VoPham, who studies how light exposure impacts circadian rhythm.

  • Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, people living on the western edge are exposed to light later in the day, which suppresses melatonin and the inclination to sleep.
  • Yet they are still expected to wake up at the same local time as those in the eastern region.
  • The phenomenon is called "solar jet lag" and refers to the mismatch between the sun clock and the social clock, VoPham said.

To avoid the abrupt hour of sleep loss on Sunday, sleep experts recommend that you gradually adjust bedtimes and daily activities — like mealtimes or exercise routines — to 15 or 20 minutes earlier, starting a few nights before the clocks switch.

  • Set the clock ahead one hour Saturday night, and then go to bed at your "normal" time, to get ahead of the change.
  • Go outside in the early morning during the week of the time change to help adjust your internal clock to the new time.
  • Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep.

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