Watchmaker adjusts clock
A watchmaker in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux adjusts his collection of clocks and watches before closing his workshop for the weekend. Reuters/Stringer

Australians are set to adjust their clocks an hour forward on Sunday, Oct 4, when Daylight Savings Time, or DST, begins. While some are touting its benefits especially in energy conservation, a growing number of studies have shown the negative health impact of this system.

A 2014 research has shown that forcing one’s body to wake up earlier than what the circadian clock, more popularly known as biological clock, expects it to can cause something called “social jet lag.” This condition can impact a person’s metabolism, sleep patterns and hormonal health, the study suggests.

Earlier this month, new findings published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reveal that high school students lose sleep during the school week because of DST, raising concerns about their driving safety. In 2008, a Swedish study also found that the risk of having a heart attack increases in the first three days after switching to DST.

With the mounting evidence on harmful health effects of DST, scientists are calling for a universal time zone, where everyone will follow the patterns of sunrise and sunset, rather than socially acceptable working hours. Meanwhile, Greg Murray, an expert on the circadian system from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, says the best strategy for now is just to accept daylight saving and ease into it gradually.

In an article that appeared in ScienceAlert, Murray said making the most of the light available to the new time zone will help one’s body clock to adjust naturally. “We can help our body clock synchronise with the new clock time by getting light exposure early in the day, and avoiding bright light in the evening,” he explained.

Sleep Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation and Australian public advocate for sleep health, also shares tips to help adjust to the time change. It includes eating a good breakfast, exercising outside in the sunlight in the morning, getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and avoiding caffeinated drinks and smoking before going to bed.

Over 70 countries, including Australia are currently using DST today, Oct 2, mainly to make better use of natural daylight, conserve energy otherwise spent on artificial light and decrease road accidents by making sure roads are naturally lit. The biannual practice of moving time forward and backward was implemented to support the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but DST was first suggested as early as 1784 by Benjamin Franklin.

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