The pros and cons of permanent daylight saving time for Chattanoogans

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / The sunrise begins as runners pass on Market Street during the 5th Erlanger Chattanooga Marathon on March 8, 2020. If the Sunshine Protection Act becomes law, the sun will rise an hour later between the first Sunday in November and the second Sunday in March starting in 2023.

With winter in the rearview, many Chattanoogans are enjoying the warmer weather and extra hour of evening sunshine afforded by clocks "springing forward" on the second Sunday in March - which, according to a bill passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate last week, could become permanent.

The Sunshine Protection Act would establish year-round daylight saving time starting in 2023, meaning clocks wouldn't roll back an hour at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November, making winter evenings lighter and mornings darker.

Cities situated on the western edge of their respective time zones, such as Chattanooga, would be most impacted by the darker mornings. If the bill were to become law, the sun in Chattanooga would rise after 8:30 a.m. starting in December through mid-February, with the latest sunrise occurring at 8:49 a.m.

In winter evenings, the earliest sunsets would occur at 6:29 p.m. as opposed to 5:29 p.m.

An overwhelming amount of evidence supports that changing the time is bad for health and unpopular due to the societal disruption it causes. Though most people support the idea of a fixed time, agreeing which time it should be is a matter of great debate.

(READ MORE: Changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time to choose?)

The incidence of heart attack, stroke and motor vehicle crashes all increase in the days after "springing forward," which sleep experts attribute primarily to sleep deprivation caused by losing an hour. Transitions between both time changes are also associated with sleep disruption, mood disturbances and suicide, according to a position statement from American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which advocates for fixed standard time.

The position statement says that daylight saving time is less aligned with human biology, and the effects of remaining in daylight saving time year-round have not been well studied.

Permanent daylight saving proponents argue that adding an hour of daylight later in the day would boost the economy, benefit mental health by giving people more time in the evening to pursue activities and reduce crime as there's light later in the day.

Though the bill flew through the Senate without objection, it's unlikely that will be the case in the House.

"There isn't a consensus, in my opinion, in the House, or even generally at this point, about whether we should have standard versus daylight saving as the permanent time," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D.-N.J., who chairs the committee overseeing time change policies, told the Washington Post.

In that same article, the Washington Post reported that President Joe Biden has not communicated his position on permanent daylight saving time.

Dr. Chad Paxson, a pulmonary, critical care and sleep specialist at CHI Memorial's Regional Sleep Center, said he knows the idea of having more daylight in the evening is popular for many, but it's important to consider the downstream effects of permanent daylight time.

"We're not going to be as tired as quickly when we go to bed, which means intrinsically we're going to want to sleep later than our social constructs allow us to," Paxson said in a phone interview. "Our responsibilities to health, our jobs, families, sleep health, all those kinds of things are combating the [desire] to just get outside and be able to do things during daylight hours."

Dr. Anuj Chandra, medical director of the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders who is board certified in sleep medicine, said in a phone interview the body doesn't adjust easily to time changes because circadian rhythms, which are part of the body's internal clock, are ingrained.

"They just don't adapt to the clock change. That's why jet lag and shift work adversely affect our body, and if you take a walk or go for a jog in the evening hours, it will delay your sleep phase," Chandra said. "That predisposes people to even go to bed later, which in a sleep-deprived society, that's a problem."

Transferring an hour of the light from the morning to the evening could mean people experience less morning light, which is the type of light that's best for health, he said.

Most importantly, Chandra said, is to choose a permanent time and educate people on the importance of keeping a fixed bedtime and wake-up time.

"Whether we fix it to standard time or daylight saving time, that's not going to be the 'fix all.' People have to adapt - don't go out for walks really late in the evening, have your fixed bedtime, have dark curtains," he said. "One has to be conscious and aware that [sleep deprivation] is a problem, and it has an impact on both physical and mental health."

Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are among 17 states to either enact legislation or pass resolutions to provide for year-round daylight saving time, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The organization's website states that if the Sunshine Protection Act became law, those states that had previously chosen to move to year-round daylight time could do so.

"However, because the bill also repeals the section of federal law that changes standard time to daylight time from March to November, states would be forced to choose to operate either on standard or daylight year-round," the website states.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.