Diabetes and Daylight Saving

Last Saturday night — or early Sunday morning — the vast majority of Americans turned back their clocks one hour to mark the end of daylight saving time (DST). This ritual has been observed in the United States since World War II, and it was adopted because of a belief that it would lead to energy savings. But in the over 70 years DST has been in place, researchers have found it to be associated with a number of social and physical effects — not all of them good for people with diabetes.

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As a recent article in Money magazine notes, the longer daylight hours during DST result in people being “out and about” later and longer. Practically speaking, this means a boost to the retail, restaurant, and sporting-goods industries. (This increased activity, it turns out, means that DST results in extra energy being used, not energy savings.) Children, especially, are prone to getting more exercise as a result of DST, as a recent BBC.com article points out. A doctor quoted in that article estimates that physical activity among British children will drop by 5% this week as a result of the time change.

So does DST lead to a healthier lifestyle among people with diabetes? It’s possible, of course, that people with diabetes get more physical activity when it’s light outside longer. But it’s just as possible that the benefits of any physical activity are offset by more eating out at restaurants and backyard barbecues during the spring and summer months. The effects of changing our clocks can also be problematic, aside from the question of how early the sun is setting. According to an article published last week by Michigan State University, changing clocks at the start or end of DST can disrupt the schedules of people who use insulin pumps, since these devices are not programmed to change their clocks automatically. If someone forgets to reset the time on his or her pump, then boluses of insulin might be delivered at the wrong times, increasing the risk of both elevated blood glucose and potentially dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Some studies also suggest that workplace injuries increase as a result of lost sleep at the start of DST.

Why not, then, stay on DST for the entire year? In the United States, DST lasts for nearly eight months — far longer than “standard” time is in place. Many researchers who have studied the issue do, in fact, recommend this course of action, believing that it would lead to more productive people and a more vibrant economy. But lighter evenings would, of course, means darker mornings in the winter. There are concerns that accidents might increase during the morning commute to work or school, an assertion that is supported by some studies. Many researchers also think the economic benefit of expanding DST would be limited, since the colder temperatures in much of the country during the months of standard time already serve to limit commerce and recreational activities.

What do you think — do you appreciate daylight saving during the spring and summer months? Do you think you’re more active when the sun sets later in the day? Do you find that switching to and from DST upsets your internal clock, or diabetes routine? Would you accept darker winter mornings as the price for full-year DST, or darker spring and summer evenings as the price for full-year standard time? Is the current system the best of both worlds? Leave a comment below!

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