Albertans vote against Daylight Saving Time

It’s a win-lose, in some ways.

At least that’s how one expert is looking at Alberta’s referendum results, which narrowly defeated a permanent move to Daylight Saving Time (DST) with 50.2% of Albertans voting no against the move.

The count was 536,874 votes against the move, with 531,782 votes wanting to ditch the time change. The province will respect the results and not proceed with a time change.

“I find myself in a weird position because, for the last 15 years, I’ve been advocating to get rid of the clock changes… but what we’ve been presented with as an alternative is much worse,” says Dr. Michael Antle, University of Calgary Department of Psychology professor.

He explains that when we ‘spring forward,’ there are adverse reactions to that, but the alternative presented in the last election wouldn’t have been a solution, rather created more problems than it was fixing.

The downside of springing ahead

The consequences of moving to DST would have been stark in some ways. It would have meant the sun wouldn’t rise until 9:30 a.m. in the winter, which would have been tough for people who already struggle with seasonal mood disorders.

“Because of the way our body clock works, it’s the morning light that is really important for us,” he says.

Antle would know; his research is focused on circadian rhythms, the internal clocks in our brains that help moderate our sleep/wake cycles.

That’s why he spent so many years advocating against changing our clocks, and while he is applauding the decision to not move to DST permanently, there are still consequences to staying status quo.

“The springtime change is always the worst one, that’s where we find a significant deficit. In the fall, it’s not always a significant difference,” he explains.

During the springtime change where people lose an hour of sleep, Antle says there is an increased rate of car accidents due to tired drivers and an increase in medical issues like heart attacks and strokes, as well as an increase in workplace accidents.

“There’s even a study showing that judges on that first Monday give harsher sentences with the Monday after the time change after because they’re grumpy and tired.”

It’s not just about losing our sleep

“A lot of people talk about how we lose one hour of sleep in the spring, and we gain one hour of sleep in the fall, but it’s actually more insidious than that. And that’s how it sort of fits into my field of circadian rhythms,” he says.

“Think back to the last time you had a bad night’s sleep — you feel really bad the next day, but … a bad night’s sleep will affect you for one day.”

He elaborates that the spring change affects people for multiple weeks because we are already shifting our work schedules an hour earlier than our bodies are used to.

If Antle and thousands of other experts had their way, Alberta would adopt Permanent Standard Time (PST), which is what our bodies are designed for.

“We’ve been advocating to go with standard time,” he says, adding that most experts around the world feel the same way.

Antle thinks the government should have given PST as an option.

“Right now, the best thing would be the status quo, the devil we know.”

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