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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Adopt 'flexible summer time' to adjust to daylight savings

Rika Kayama

There has been a lot of talk lately about shifting to daylight saving time during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. In other words, in order to avoid holding competition in the severe Tokyo summer heat, official time will be moved two hours earlier. For example, an event set to begin at 11 a.m. instead is said to start from "9 a.m." This will apparently have a slight effect on avoiding the heat.

Just as I began to think, "Well, that is one possible measure," I started to get a little worried because companies, city halls, banks and other operations will also naturally start two hours earlier, too. For example, examination hours begin at 9 a.m. at the hospital where I currently work, but daylight savings will mean that these hours will instead begin at 7 a.m. Of course, because I will also be going to sleep two hours earlier, that is not an issue, but I wonder if my body will be able to adjust immediately to the change. I start to worry that I will just end up staying in Tokyo's original time zone and end up with a lack of sleep.

While some people in my examination room worry, as I do, "Will this hospital also switch to daylight saving time?" others just laugh and say things like, "The rhythm of my lifestyle has no rules, so it doesn't matter in the end what time things open!" Once we get used to the change, we will probably think, "Oh, that was fine," but won't the period around the change of the clocks in early summer and fall surely be tough?

We have some sort of body clock that can generally feel out a daily rhythm, and we can't move it forward or backward like a machine. When we travel abroad to a destination with a large time difference, or when we return to Japan from those locations, we become unable to sleep at night, or feel groggy with jet lag during the daylight hours, because we have this body clock. Generally, after several days, we can adjust that clock so it runs on time, but there are people who end up getting ill during that correction period.

That being said, if it is necessary to shift to daylight saving time during the 2020 Tokyo Games, then what will happen during that adjustment period? I think it would be best if for the first two weeks or so after the shift to daylight savings time, and for roughly two weeks after the clocks go back to normal, people should not stress themselves out trying to adjust, and each person should go at their own pace coming to and leaving work. There is nothing substantial that can really be done about things like examination hours at hospitals, but for other things, being a little early or a little late should be accepted to a certain extent.

If we accept each person's individual ways of getting used to the time difference, such as taking a week's time to slowly match daylight savings or take a while making a one-hour leap before moving onto the full two hours, then I think that people will have an easier time making the modifications without causing undue stress to their body clocks.

When I brought up this topic at the workplace, I was laughed at and asked, "You just want to cut down your working hours, don't you?" That might in part be the case, but still, in order to seriously and appropriately prevent people from falling ill from suddenly pushing the hands of the clock forward two hours, I can't help but think this "flexible summer time" is the best method. Or maybe I am just not that serious about the issue. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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