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Daylight Saving Time vs Standard Time: Should we stick with one permanently?

Ontario Tech sleep researcher Dr. Efrosini Papaconstantinou says the debate continues to swirl around health and wellness, and business considerations


For about a century, most Canadian communities have been adjusting clocks in the spring to take advantage of longer daylight hours in the northern hemisphere during warmer summer months, and switching them back to standard time in the late fall and winter.

In recent years, this pattern of changing clocks by an hour has ignited a fierce debate. Some deride the tradition as an inconvenience and argue that we should never change our clocks. They advocate we should pick one option: standard time or daylight time, and stick with it.

In fact, in November 2020, the Province of Ontario passed legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. The legislation even has royal assent. But it won’t come into force unless Quebec and New York State also make the same change.

“Switching twice a year is disruptive both socially and biologically,” says Ontario Tech University sleep researcher Dr. Efrosini Papaconstantinou of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The sleep experts are adamant that adopting permanent standard time is the healthier choice because it is better aligned with the progression of the sun, and therefore with our body’s internal clock. But individuals in the retail sector are pressing for permanent daylight saving because the more daylight in the evening, in theory, the more likely people will be out shopping and spending money.”

Daylight has impact on our biological clocks 

Our brains like to take cues from our surroundings and crave regularity. Sunrise in the mornings helps people wake up and stay alert; dark nights cause our bodies to produce melatonin, our ‘sleepy hormone’, to help us go to sleep. If it’s too light at night, it can be difficult to transition into sleep. When it’s too dark in the morning, it’s hard to wake up and get to work or to school. Together, these circumstances lead to sleep deprivation.

Some basic sleep hygiene tips for navigating the time change period include:

  • Keep the same bedtime and wake-time every day, even on
  • Avoiding alcohol and/or caffeine within four hours of bedtime in the coming days.
  • Keeping your communications devices out of the bedroom to avoid the light from smartphones and computers.
  • A dark room with relatively cool temperature can also be extremely helpful in transitioning to an effective night of rejuvenating sleep.
Biggest impact of possible permanent daylight saving time in Ontario: Late sunrises and dark commutes on the coldest winter mornings

We are reminded every year that certain regions of Canada (and the United States) are on permanent daylight time, including most of Saskatchewan, northwestern British Columbia and Yukon. A few areas actually stay on permanent standard time, such as southeastern Labrador.

If Ontario was to eventually adopt permanent daylight saving time, there would be some extra daylight in the early evening on cold winter days. The most noticeable difference would be a long stretch of darker mornings during the commute period, the time when youngsters are going to school. In Oshawa it would mean the sun would generally not rise until after 8:30 a.m. during December and January, and as late as 8:49 a.m. in the first few weeks of January, well after the start time of most schools, and when morning temperatures are coldest. Further west, the City of Windsor for example would not see the sun rise until 9:01 a.m. in early January.

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Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
289.928.3653 (mobile)