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'It does more damage than it does good': Doctor says Arizona has it right on daylight saving time

This past weekend, as most of the rest of the country moved their clocks ahead by an hour to daylight saving time, we here in Arizona did nothing.

Our clocks, of course, stay on the same time year-round — and Dr. Michael Grandner says that’s likely better for our sleep and overall health.

Grandner is director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. He joined The Show to explain what kinds of impacts people feel this time of year when they spring forward.

Interview highlights

MARK BRODIE: Michael, for people living in states where clocks do change, what kinds of impacts do people feel this time of year when we spring forward into daylight saving?

MICHAEL GRANDNER: Essentially, everybody who's doing this decides, or doesn't decide, but participates in this natural experiment where we go through one 23-hour day out of nowhere for no good reason. And what that ends up doing for most people, it means cutting out some of their sleep, and we have effects of that. It's sort of like jet lagging yourself for an hour for no good reason. Where, where there are effects on the body of even a small shift like that can have small but noticeable effects. And for some people, they're, they're lessened, they're, they're less, and then for some people they can be more.

BRODIE: Well, so you made the, the jet lag analogy and, you know, the conventional wisdom is sort of that, you know, you take a day for each hour of time zone that you're going through to, to overcome the jet lag. Is it like that with this? Does it take just like a day or two to maybe get yourself back on track more or less for most people?

GRANDNER: The problem is that people start trying to overcompensate and that ends up making it worse. So for example, if you're like, oh, I lost an hour of sleep. So I'm going to go to bed an hour earlier tonight. Well, then what's gonna happen? So that'll throw your whole schedule off going forward. Or, you know, I'm gonna take a long nap during the day cause I'm too tired. A short nap may be fine, but you don't wanna do anything that's going to upset your schedule. The best thing you can do is probably nothing. And just get back on your regular schedule, make it through the day with maybe a little less sleep than you had before.

If you're one of those people who was on the edge where this one hour makes a huge difference between your ability to function and not, there's not a whole lot you can do, maybe nap and recover a little bit more, but overcompensating for it is actually going to probably backfire later.

BRODIE: So, for those of us living in Arizona, does this mean we are immune from, from these, these issues as, as minor as they might be for some people?

GRANDNER: Well, we're certainly inoculated against it, you know, as I like to say, when people ask me about Arizona, as I say, we, we don't change our clocks. We do change some of our recurring calendar entries. If, if at least in my world, I have lots of calls and, and, and do a lot of work with people in different states and, you know, my nine o'clock call becomes a 10 o'clock call and vice versa. But I, I think that Arizona is doing it right. You know, the weird thing is a lot of scientific organizations can agree on very little. I mean, put two scientists in a room, you'll get five opinions on any topic.

But, and, and we like, if you any interview with a scientist, you see, we qualify everything. We can't give you a straight answer about anything. However, this is one thing everyone seems to agree on that switching times twice a year is dumb and doesn't really accomplish very much, if anything is harmful or neutral or harmful. And we should just stay on permanent standard time like Arizona does, not permanent daylight time, which some other, some people have been advocating for. But it's really strange how, with all of the conflict and disagreements in the field, this is one thing that everyone's kind of agreed on that. There's no reason to do this. It does more damage than it does good. And actually standard time is the way, because it's more light earlier in the day versus more light later. Even though more light later might, you know, seem like more fun, more light earlier is actually better for health and biology and safety.

BRODIE: Well, it's interesting because, you know, as I'm sure, you know, and I won't ask you to wade into the political debate here, but there are efforts to make standard time standard across, across the year and efforts to make daylight saving time standard across the year. You're saying standard time at least sleep wise is, is the better option here.

GRANDNER: Yeah, standard time is the way. The thing about daylight saving time, you don't actually save any daylight. There's the same amount of daylight. We can't really control the sun. We try but we cannot. What we can do is control our rhythms a little bit. So we're not saving any daylight. We're just moving it somewhere else in the day. We're erring on the side of it being slightly earlier.

Now, I get that nobody likes going home in the dark. I hate that, everybody hates that, when it gets a little bit lighter later. You know, it, it has all these other seasonal things that go along with it with having more energy and all these sorts of things which, which seem very good. However, the more light earlier reduces accidents on the way to work. School buses, kids crossing the street. It's an hour. I mean, it's not the end of the world, but it's not gonna make a huge difference to stay on standard time versus daylight anyway. The day length is gonna be shorter. And it's gonna get longer in the spring and summer anyway.

BRODIE: Yeah. So you mentioned, for example, some of your, your work calls have to get shifted around. What kind of impacts do do we deal with? Because I mean, forget about the just having to remember, you know, where we are relative to other time zones. But like does that cause any impacts for, for Arizonans or other people who don't change their clocks, the fact that everybody else does?

GRANDNER: That's an, that's an interesting question. Besides just trying to remember which clocks are automatically changing and, and which aren't and, and things you know, we're mostly protected from these effects. The biggest effects are losing a little bit of sleep. I mean, if your schedule is dependent on people outside of Arizona, like if you're working remotely and your, your company is on the East Coast or something, it causes problems.

So, so yeah, I mean, a way to think about it is, why is this causing disruption? It's not just about the lack of sleep, it's about the disruption of your body clock where, every cell in your body has clocks in it. You, it's not just your sleep wake cycle. It's also your heart needs to know when it's daytime versus nighttime. Your liver knows when it's daytime or nighttime, your kidneys, your blood vessels, every cell in your body has clocks in it, and those clocks help keep them working at the right time in the right way. All of these things are happening in confluence with each other. So that's why the body likes telling time.

Then something happens like jet lag where, where the clocks get jumbled up a little bit and then it takes a little, it's sort of like the snow globe got shaken up a little bit, and it's a little bit of disequilibrium all over. And then, you know, little by little the different systems, not all the snow, snow flakes in the snow globe all fall simultaneously. They, they might settle in at various speeds and then get equilibrium again. And that happens when we disrupt our schedules here in Arizona, we're actually very lucky, we have minimal disruptions. But if the, the degree that we're dependent to schedules out of state, it could affect us as well.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.