Daylight saving time is literally killing us

  • Daylight-saving time in the US starts on Sunday, March 8, 2020 at 2 a.m.
  • That morning, most phones and computers will automatically tick forward one hour, and we'll lose an hour of sleep.
  • The interruption can kill people: Incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and fatal car accidents all spike around the start of daylight-saving time each year.
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Daylight-saving time is a killer.

The annual ritual in which we "gain" an hour of evening light by pushing the clocks forward may seem like a harmless shift. But every year on the Monday after the springtime switch, hospitals report a 24% spike in heart-attack visits around the US.

Just a coincidence? Probably not. Doctors see an opposite trend in the fall: The day after we turn back the clocks, heart attack visits drop 21% as many people enjoy a little extra pillow time.

"That's how fragile and susceptible your body is to even just one hour of lost sleep," sleep expert Matthew Walker, author of "How We Sleep," previously told Business Insider.

The reason that springing the clocks forward can kill us comes down to interrupted sleep schedules. This Sunday, March 8, instead of the clock turning from 1:59 to 2:00 a.m. as usual, it will tick to 3:00 a.m. instead. 

For those of us who will be asleep in bed, researchers estimate we'll all deprive ourselves of an extra 40 minutes of sleep because of the clock change. And night-shift workers will get paid only for seven hours of work instead of the usual eight, according to federal law.

Walker said daylight-saving time, or DST, is a kind of "global experiment" we perform twice a year. And the results show just how sensitive our bodies are to the whims of changing schedules: In the fall the shift is a blessing; in the spring it's a fatal curse.

In addition to the heart-attack trend, which lasts about a day, researchers estimate that car crashes caused by drivers who were sleepy after clocks changed likely cost an 30 extra people in the US their lives over the nine-year period from 2002 to 2011.

The problems don't stop there. DST also causes more reports of injuries at work, more strokes, and may lead to a temporary increase in suicides. Our bodies may not fully recover from the springtime bump for weeks

RELATED: Take a look at some DST facts: 

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Daylight Saving Time Facts
Benjamin Franklin essentially came up with this glorious time exchange in 1741, when he was an ambassador for Paris.Though it wasn't until World War I that Europe truly started to implement Daylight Saving Time in order to bolster their war efforts.

DST before 2007 used to fall a few days before Halloween, but since the holiday tends to come with increased accidents it was moved to the first Sunday in November, according to Acurite.

Though, some dispute that the change was made to allow Trick or Treaters to stay out longer. 

Circa 1955: Silhouette of a witch on a broomstick flying over the skyline of New York City, Halloween.

(Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)

Arizona and Hawaii are the only two U.S. states that don't observe Daylight Saving Time. Pro: they don't have to worry about changing their clocks. Con: they never 'gain an hour.'

When World War II came around-- saving time was fashionable again and everyone wanted to get their hands on daylight saving time. However, it was near complete confusion in the United States-- there was no uniformity. According to Live Science, "One 35-mile bus ride from Moundsville, W.Va., to Steubenville, Ohio, took riders through no less than seven different time changes."

It was officially adopted by the U.S. in 1966. 

DST can affect the time you're born-- on paper that is. A baby could be born at 1:55 a.m. during daylight saving time, with another born ten minutes later, marked as 1:05 a.m.

Freaky, huh?

We hate to be that person-- but Daylight Saving Time is not plural, though many say and spell it as such. So, if you want to be that person you can spend the day correcting all of your friends when they say "daylight savings time."
Many countries near the equator do not adjust their clocks for daylight saving. Japan and China don't observe DST at all, and Antarctica doesn't either.
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Why we 'save' daylight for the later hours of the day

Daylight-saving time was originally concocted as a way to save energy in the evening, and was implemented during World War I in Germany. But more recent research suggests it's probably not saving us any megawatts of power at all. There is some evidence, however, that extra evening light can reduce crime and increase the time people spend exercising, at least in certain climates.

Worldwide, fewer than half of all countries participate in this biannual clock-changing ritual.

Not everyone in the US follows it either. Hawaii and Arizona ignore DST, since it makes less sense to shift the clocks when you live near the equator, where the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time every day.

Residents and lawmakers in California and Florida are also trying to ditch the switch. Voters in the Golden State opted to get rid of the annual clock change in the 2018 midterm elections, and Florida lawmakers enacted the "Sunshine Protection Act" aimed at doing the same thing last March.

Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Idaho have all angled to do the same recently, with proposed legislation. But the shift to a permanent daylight-saving-time plan isn't something states can decide for themselves: The measures require a green light from Congress to take effect, something both California and Florida have yet to receive.

For now, the tradition inevitably costs some people their lives. While you might enjoy seeing a little more daylight next week, be extra-careful with your heart — and your driving.

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