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Some ready to bid adieu to bi-yearly shift in time for extra daylight

The municipal election ballot will feature a provincial referendum question on daylight saving time.
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The sun is shining, and the leaves are changing colour near the Sturgeon River on Sept. 26, 202. Will this be the final fall we set our clocks back? JESSICA NELSON/St. Albert Gazette

To keep the clock on one time permanently in the province or to continue the twice-yearly time shift is a question that will be posed to voters during the province's municipal elections in less than two weeks.

On Oct. 18, Albertans will decide whether the province will remain on daylight saving time year-round.

The question on the ballot states simply: Do you want Alberta to adopt year-round daylight saving time, which is summer hours, eliminating the need to change our clocks twice a year?

A couple of St. Albertans The Gazette spoke to said they would like to get rid of the bi-yearly shift.

Richard Salzwedel, a retired officer who was walking his dogs at Lacombe Lake Park on Sept. 29, said he doesn’t like the switch to daylight saving time and wishes the province would get rid of it. He plans to vote in the upcoming municipal election and will be answering the question on the ballot.

His biggest issue: “We [have] to get up too early and I just don’t like it. It throws your system out of whack. Saskatchewan doesn’t have it and I think we should just leave it alone,” he said.

Despite the issue coming up multiple times over the years, which Salzwedel believes is merely campaign talk, he thinks this time will be different.

Jorden Lyall, who works in retail, said Sept. 29 he doesn’t think it is necessary to switch. "I think it causes more confusion than it does benefit."

Lyall said his sleep schedule is pretty consistent, but he finds the time change does have an impact.

“If daylight saving creeps up on me, I feel like it can be very disruptive to my sleep schedule. I feel like having to mentally prepare like a week in advance to adjust your sleep schedule’s a bit much."

Lyall plans to vote in the referendum.

Cary Brown, professor in the department of occupational therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, at the University of Alberta, is a sleep expert who has researched and published widely on the subject, including non-pharmacological sleep interventions such as hand self-Shiatsu.

Brown said the sooner we stop shifting back and forth, the better for everyone’s health and wellbeing, regardless of whether we stay permanently on daylight or standard time.

“Fall is not such a big problem, but it's spring. That is a huge problem, and we see accidents go up. People do less well. People are grumpy. It's harder on your health,” she said.

Evidence suggests there is a higher rate of such incidents as heart attacks and car accidents when the time shifts in the spring. She said our bodies are “wired to respond to light and dark." This cycle is called the circadian rhythm.

“[Our bodies] are very much regulated by the light we're exposed to [or] the dark we’re exposed to. So, if we keep shifting twice a year when we expect people to get up, it's asking our bodies to actually do something [they're] not prepared to do very well,” she said.

This can cause sleep deficiency, and when people are sleep deprived, their thinking, learning, and impulsivity are impacted. People are not as attentive, and children don’t learn as well.

The time shift can also exacerbate problems connected to chronic sleep deficiency, such as depression and anxiety.

“The science is out there. It's very clear that there are negative consequences of daylight savings time shifting,” she said.

Routine and predictability are also important to people, especially during the pandemic, said Brown.

She said the hour ahead in the fall can be helpful for people who are chronically sleep-deprived, as they can use it for a reset, but that doesn’t happen for many because it’s a lifestyle problem.

“We as a society stay up late and expose ourselves to stimulants like screens and television and computers that interfere with our sleep and those habits don't change. So, yeah, it doesn't really benefit many people,” she explained.

There are, however, ways to make the time-shift adjustment easier. A week-and-a half-before the time change Brown suggests starting the change in 15-minute increments so the shift isn’t such a shock to the system.

People can also use a lightbox to ensure they are getting the proper amount of light for their circadian rhythm and blue light-blocking goggles.

The most important thing people can do is to educate themselves on sleep and not feel guilty or overwhelmed.

“Our society is not sleep conducive anymore. And people can beat themselves up … It’s OK, do what you can. Little things do add up. Never minimize some small simple thing that you think you can do.”

If the majority of voters choose "yes" on the ballot, the province will be required to take the steps to make the change to permanent daylight saving time. The change will not take place earlier than the fall of 2022.

Regardless of the vote, residents will have to move their clocks an hour back on Nov. 7 at 2 a.m., and forward an hour on March 13, 2022, at 2 a.m.