On Nov. 5, Ontarians turned back their clocks an hour, just as they have for 105 years.

The time change persists despite ample evidence of negative health effects. But the ritual seems set to continue until enough provinces and U.S. states can get their clocks together.

When it began in 1918, Daylight Savings Time was supposed to conserve energy and increase the amount of daylight you could enjoy each day. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the practice was also intended to boost production during the First World War. In Canada today only Saskatchewan and Yukon do not change their clocks.

But research suggests it does more harm than good.

Other than general grogginess and lack of energy, a 2020 study found the time switch increased traffic accidents by six per cent and a 2019 study found it increased heart attacks by about 20 per cent in the spring when the time moves ahead one hour.

Fraser Willsey, a senior sleep technologist at The Royal Mental Health Centre’s Sleep Disorders Clinic in Ottawa, says the increase in heart attacks may be follow a shift in the body’s production of melatonin and cortisol.

“… Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory which would explain the increase in heart attacks. That, and waking up earlier than we normally would happens right in the heat of that cortisol curve. It’s cortisol that nudges us out of bed. It’s like a changing of the guard where melatonin reduces and cortisol takes over for the start of our day,” he says.

Willsey says “the squeeze is not worth the juice” when it comes to time changes.

He says the lack of sleep you may accumulate as part of the time switch may snowball and turn into chronic problems for your sleep and mental health.

Willsey says that for people who are prone to poor sleep, it’s a “vicious cycle” that could last years.

“Poor sleep over time could lead to anxiety or depression which could lead to insomnia. Unfortunately, it’s a very bidirectional relationship where one feeds into the other,” he said.

When it comes to the effects on the economy, Lisa Kramer, a professor of finance at University of Toronto, says increased anxiety from lack of sleep “leads to a reluctance to buy or continue holding risky financial assets.”

She wrote about this in a 2018 article, in which she and her co-authors estimated that “in the United States alone, the average one-day loss on stock markets due to a daylight-saving time change amounted to more than $30 billion US.”

Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa-Centre, says many people have approached him about this issue.

“When I hear about this, it’s from very exhausted parents balancing work and school with a changing schedule,” he said.

We know what the problem is, now how do we change it? And, why is it taking so long to change?

Ontario has passed the Time Amendment Act in 2020. The bill would keep Ontario permanently on Daylight Savings Time. Proposed by former MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean Jeremy Roberts, the bill can’t be implemented until Quebec and New York state are on board. Many public servants and Ottawa residents work in Gatineau while Toronto and New York share the same stock market hours so it would be in our best interests to harmonize on the same time.

Harden says the vote in 2020 cleared “without obstruction”.

“It’s not often that you can get people from across the political spectrum to agree on the same thing. We’ve cleared the hurdle in Ontario, now we need them cleared in Quebec and New York,” he says.

In Quebec, the Parti Québecois is pushing for a similar bill to secure DST as the permanent time.

In the U.S., the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act in 2022, which would also make DST permanent. However, NPR reported in early November that New York state was among nine states interested in ditching making Standard Time permanent, not Daylight Savings Time.

The question of which time we should make permanent remains a topic of debate in all circles.

Harden says he is open to hearing what experts have to say but the decision will lie in “what produces the most social good”.

“Ultimately, I think the best policy is not only guided by academic research but what every day residents tell us,” he says.

Kramer says that, while she has heard “strong arguments” from both sides, she believes it may be difficult for politicians and experts to agree on one permanent time.

“As long as people differ in their attributes and preferences, it’s unlikely we’ll all agree on which single time standard is best,” she says.

“The predominant view in the sleep community is that we should stick to Standard Time. Bottom line, we’re talking about more light in the morning and less light at night, which is a perfect recipe for sleep.”

Fraser Willsey, senior sleep technologist at The Royal

Willsey says Standard Time aligns better with everyone’s natural circadian rhythm.

“The predominant view in the sleep community is that we should stick to Standard Time,” he said. “Bottom line, we’re talking about more light in the morning and less light at night, which is a perfect recipe for sleep.”

To better prepare yourself for the next time change, Willsey says people should change their sleeping patterns in advance to minimize its effects.

“In the days leading up to the switch in the spring, try going to sleep 15 minutes earlier every night. In the fall, go to sleep a little later than usual.”

He also suggests minimizing your exposure to screens and blue light before bed.

But Kramer said that she thinks we’ll abandon the clock switching: “it’s just a matter of time.”