Switching Times is Bad for Your Health, Says Leading Doctor

Health and Fitness

A leading physician who specializes in wellness is urging the Bahamas government to stop switching between Eastern Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time, citing medical evidence that switching to Daylight Savings Time leads to a broad spectrum of health issues ranging from poorer sleep habits due to extended daylight hours to increased stress, a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes. 

Dr. Arlington Lightbourne, President and CEO of Bahamas Wellness Health Systems which operates four clinics in Nassau and Eleuthera, said The Bahamas is one of only a handful of countries in the region to continue what he called the “artificial clock, asking our brain to battle prolonged evening sunshine and wake up an hour earlier than its biological design for 7 months each year. 

“Most other countries in the Caribbean region have either never used or have abandoned this unhealthy pivot between Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time,” he said. “The Bahamas, even to our detriment tends to mirror many of the lifestyle behaviors of America whether it is healthy for us or not. I am calling on health & wellness professionals and advocates throughout the Bahamas to stand with me and lobby against daylight savings time because of the very clear evidence of how it negatively affects human wellness. We need the courage to say to our leaders that our health is more important than the economic benefit of working longer hours in the daylight or not having to turn on lights so early.” 

The health consequences, says Dr. Lightbourne, have been documented repeatedly which is why countries as dependent on tourism as Mexico have banned extended daylight. 

“Late last year Mexico adopted standard time permanently, citing health benefits and improved productivity and energy savings,” he noted. “What happens when your body’s circadian rhythm is interrupted is not one of those things that we think about enough – unless, of course, you are in the medical field and you see the almost immediate impact it has on your patients.” 

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the brain has a harder time releasing melatonin which induces sleepiness when the sun is still shining and light is pouring into what is supposed to be a bedroom. The longer you stay up with the sunlight, the less time melatonin has to kick in as your natural bedtime drowsiness sedative.  

In his practice, Dr. Lightbourne said, he’s seen almost immediate cases of depression, overeating, restlessness leading to sleeplessness, fatigue, higher blood pressures and blood sugars.  

“There is also a reported eight percent increase in strokes and heart attacks in America,” he said.  

According to a Reuters report that has been widely reaffirmed nearly a decade after it first appeared, the loss of one hour of sleep from switching to Daylight Savings Time raised the risk of having a heart attack by 25 percent by the following Monday, two days after the clock ticked the extra hour of daylight. 

By contrast, the report stated, “heart attack risk fell 21 percent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time, and people got an extra hour’s sleep.” 

Says Dr. Lightbourne, “Our brains and bodies have evolved over thousands of years in relationship with the sun, and to continue this unhealthy pivot adds to many health challenges humans already face.” 

While debate on time change continues in the U.S. with two-thirds of the population saying they don’t look forward to the Spring forward, Fall back routine, the item does not appear to be on the Bahamian agenda, said Dr. Lightbourne who recently marked 15 years in practice and seven with Bahamas Wellness, which has owned and operated the Eleuthera Medical Center for the last five years, now the gold standard comprehensive and 24/7 urgent care facility for that island. The clinic recently added advanced digital mammography to its growing list of specialized services including 24/7 x-ray, ultrasound, and full lab facilities. With a staff complement of about 45 and rotating specialists serving Central Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Lower Bogue, Bahamas Wellness growing list of services on Eleuthera now include specialists in emergency and trauma care, primary wellness care, gynecology, pregnancy care, pediatrics, nutrition, cardiology, colonoscopy, vision, dermatology, foot and ankle and its most recent addition, dentistry. 

For immediate release on or after November 8, 2023