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Thank me when you get that extra hour of sleep in the spring

Oct 30, 2015

Peter Lucido, a Republican from Macomb County, and Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, are both members of the Michigan House of Representatives.

But otherwise, they don’t have much in common. Lucido is a conservative Republican. Irwin, a liberal Democrat. Irwin is in his last term; Lucido in his first.

They line up on opposite sides on virtually any divisive issue. Except one. 

They both want to repeal Daylight Saving Time. And in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, I fully and completely endorse their efforts. Which don’t, by the way, seem to have a chance.

As I hope you know by now, we have to turn our clocks back an hour after 2 a.m. Sunday. The good news is that we get another hour of sleep. The bad is that we have to run around the house, manually resetting analog clocks and those older digital ones.

I’m all in favor of doing this, by the way. I need the extra hour, and I hate Daylight Saving Time. What I am not in favor of is setting the clocks ahead an hour next March. I feel strongly that Daylight Saving Time is an abomination, and that we mortals were meant to live and die under Eastern Standard Time.

My convictions are not just mock-theological, however.

There are scientific reasons to think DST is bad for children and adults, for different reasons. The whole point of it is to give us another hour of daylight on those romantic, or at least warm, summer evenings. I understand the allure of that.

But you have to give darkness its due somewhere, and Daylight Saving Time opts for doing that in the mornings. Trouble is, it is always more dangerous for children to walk to school in the dark.

It’s probably even more dangerous the week after Daylight Saving Time kicks in every spring, and the kids have to cross streets filled with sleep-deprived adults driving cars.

Austin Smith, an economics professor at Miami University in Ohio, has been studying the social costs of Daylight Saving Time. He concluded that it cost an extra 302 deaths in this nation over one ten-year period, mainly due to sleep-deprived drivers coping with changes in shifting ambient light. Sleep deprivation is already a chronic national malady.

A University of Michigan study released last year found a 25% increase in heart attacks the Monday after we lose an hour of sleep in the spring. Heart attacks decrease, by the way, the week that we get an hour’s worth of extra sleep in the fall. Representative Lucido, who is leading the latest push to abandon Daylight Saving Time, isn’t a doctor, but a business owner.

He’s been quoted as saying he’s seen how employees are tired and don’t function as well the week after the change. He also has data that indicate the claims that DST saves energy are a myth. Farmers, of course, hate it, and always have.

So I think Michigan would be well advised to give it up. We’d be bucking a national trend, but so what? We’ve done it before. If the Legislature does do the right thing and dumps Daylight Saving Time, I promise you’ll thank me when you get that extra hour of sleep in the spring.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.