WOODSTOCK, GA — It’s nearly time to fall back — and fall back into the biannual debate over whether we Americans should continue the practice of setting our clocks back, as we will Sunday, Nov. 1, and forward for daylight saving time.
That means the sun will set at 5:39 p.m. in Woodstock.
Nov. 1 is the earliest date possible for the end of daylight saving time, which officially occurs at 2 a.m. during normal sleeping hours. But let’s be real — there’s nothing normal about 2020 or the sleep schedules many of us are keeping, and that has reinvigorated the argument that Congress should make the switch back to standard time permanent.
Mental health experts warn that pandemic restrictions and job loss already are metaphorically plunging America into darkness — a mental health disaster unseen in our lifetimes.
In a mid-July KFF Tacking Poll, 53 percent U.S. adults said their mental health had been negatively affected due to worry and stress over the pandemic, a jump of more than 20 points from March, when the national mental health advocacy nonprofit added the question to polling.
The poll revealed some other mental health red flags: 36 percent had difficulty sleeping; 32 percent had difficulty eating; 12 percent increased their use of alcohol or drugs; and 12 percent said chronic conditions had worsened due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.
Winter depression is real, even without a pandemic. The days will continue to get shorter as we move toward the winter solstice on Dec. 21; and falling back to standard time makes the change more abrupt, triggering for many seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a type of depression that occurs during the late fall and early winter. The exact cause of SAD isn’t known, but research suggests limited sunlight is a reason, and the symptoms usually dissipate as the days grow longer and daylight saving time returns on the second Sunday in March.
“SAD is not a minor condition, but because people typically experience it only during certain months, they don't see it as a serious issue. However, it is imperative to treat,” Dr. Paolo Cassano, a psychiatrist who specializes in low-level-light therapy at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, told Harvard Health Publishing.
The pandemic has energized a movement to make daylight saving time permanent. Several states have passed legislation to do away with the twice-a-year time switch, but these laws can’t take effect until there’s change in the federal statute. The13 states where legislatures have approved bills favoring year-round DST are Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
California's voters authorized year-round DST in 2018, but action on the referendum is still pending in their state Legislature.
Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott cited studies from the American Journal of Public Health, the Brookings Institution and the U.S. Department of Energy in their proposal last month to keep the United States on DST through Nov. 7, 2021.
In a statement, they said the bill would “provide one year of stability for families who are already dealing with enough change with virtual learning, work from home, and other disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has placed into our daily lives.”
Rubio said “keeping the nation on daylight saving time is just one small step we can take to help ease the burden.”
“More daylight in the after-school hours is critical to helping families and children endure this challenging school year,” he said.
Scott said in the statement that “after months of staying inside amid the coronavirus pandemic, families across the nation could use a little more sunshine and time to enjoy all that Florida has to offer.”
Both are longtime supporters of year-round DST. Scott was governor of Florida when the Legislature passed and he signed a bill that would make DST permanent with enabling federal legislation.