Is the sun setting on daylight saving?

Australians are being asked for their views on daylight savings as the rest of the world starts to question its health implications.

The Sleep Health Foundation (SHF) is calling for people to participate in a survey which will be open till the end of the year. In 2021, it convened an international expert working group to develop an evidence-informed view of how daylight-savings time impacts Australians all across the nation.

Dr Moira Junge, CEO of SHF says: “The Foundation became interested in daylight saving because of the one-hour sleep loss it causes at the start of summer.

“But our expert working group has started to unpack the many implications of this very significant public policy.”  

SHF says the original aim of daylight saving was to provide more daylight time for outdoor activities after work and school. About 20% of the world observes daylight saving. In Australia, it is currently observed in the southeast but not the northwest states.  

Changes to daylight saving regulations were recently agreed by the European Union and are currently being considered by the USA.  

An updated position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine supports the replacement of daylight saving time with permanent standard time, which would eliminate the change when summer begins and ends.

“It is the position of the AASM that the United States should eliminate seasonal time changes in favour of permanent standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology,” the AASM says.

“Evidence supports the distinct benefits of standard time for health and safety, while also underscoring the potential harms that result from seasonal time changes to and from daylight saving time.

“By causing the human body clock to be misaligned with the natural environment, daylight saving time increases risks to our physical health, mental well-being, and public safety,” said lead author Dr M Adeel Rishi, who is chair of the AASM Public Safety Committee and a pulmonary, sleep medicine, and critical care specialist at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. “Permanent standard time is the optimal choice for health and safety.”

The position statement was published as an accepted paper on October 31 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the official publication of the AASM.

One member of the Australian working group, Professor Russell Foster, Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University says Australia provides an important case study of daylight saving and its impacts.

“Only half the country observes the summertime change, suggesting that more evidence is urgently required to inform national policy”.

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