Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Extra Hour

Overnight, we added an extra hour as we rolled back the clocks. Well, actually we just regained the hour we lost when we turned the clocks forward last spring.

Every year we play this gain an hour/lose an hour game so it isn’t like we actually “create” an extra hour. As much as we’d often love to add a few hours to the clock we can’t.

The actual change takes place at 2AM local time so most of us are likely asleep when it happens. For those who work late shift or overnights, they generally do an hour shorter shift in the spring and an hour longer in the fall. Some 24 hour businesses actually change the whole shift schedule so that no one loses or gains an hour.

In the spring we complain about losing that hour. We either lose sleep or lose time with friends and family or work.

An hour may not seem like a lot of time but our bodies can take days to adjust to this change regardless if it is a loss or gain of an hour. It’s worse in the spring as we have to get up an hour earlier. Even if you are a morning person, that hour earlier can be rough the first few days. If you don’t gradually adjust your schedule in the days leading up to that loss, the mind and body can take a lot of extra coaxing to wake up and function.

Fall is a different story though. Granted, we don’t like that the sun sets so much earlier and the days are getting shorter but we contemplate how to spend that extra hour. Should we sleep? Should we spend that time with family and friends? A party? Maybe we should catch up on some work.

I think most of us would probably opt for the sleep.

Sleep would certainly be my choice. If only it were that easy.

I’ve always been a light sleeper but the last few years that lightness has just gotten even lighter.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember the last time I had a decent night’s sleep. You see, I am at that oh so charming age when so many of us women are fighting hot flashes, insomnia and calls from Mother Nature. The Night Shift can be rough!

I try to keep a regular schedule of being in bed around 10 and up around 7 or so but my sleep is severely disjointed – to the point that I am lucky if I get about 5 or 6 hours if you added it all up. I rarely sleep more than 2-3 hours at a stretch. That means I don’t get very much REM or deep sleep – the kind needed to wake up rested and refreshed.

So much for a good night’s sleep.

There are times that I truly envy bears. Every fall they slow their hearts down and slip into a deep sleep that lasts through winter. They don’t have to deal with the snow, the icy streets and sidewalks or traverse snow banks to find a bus stop or cross an intersection. No household chores or running errands. They even lose weight while they sleep! How great would that be? Okay, there is that part about wearing the fur coat in summer which would get way too hot, but if a geneticist can figure out how to tweak humans genes to let them hibernate than they can figure out how to deal with the fur coat thing. (Stuart McLean shared his own musings on Hibernation a few years ago on The Vinyl Cafe.)

Unfortunately, hibernating isn’t an option for us humans, so we deal with the sleep deprivation as best we can.

I’ve tried several things to improve my sleep. I rarely nap during the day as that tends to make my night sleep even worse. The exceptions to that rule are if I am sick or even more exhausted than usual. Fluid intake is very limited after supper – less than four ounces. I don’t drink coffee or tea – and rarely drink alcohol. Chocolate is my only caffeine. Don’t even THINK about asking me to give that up or you will really have a bear on your hands!

The computer and the TV are generally off about thirty minutes before I crawl into bed. My bedroom is dark and cool. I do some deep breathing and stretching. Due to medications I use for my eyes and other family health history, I can’t take any sedatives. I did try a very mild med a few years ago, but even that left me feeling very groggy when I woke up in the morning. It didn’t do much to improve my quality of actual sleep either. I’ve just started trying Melatonin but it is too soon to tell if that will make a difference. As much as I’d like it to help, I almost hope it doesn’t as it isn’t covered by our medical system so I’d have to pay out of pocket for it. Not easy on a very fixed income.

So, for the foreseeable future, I just have to deal with whatever sleep I am able to get. Some nights are better than others and hopefully you will forgive me if I act like a crabby bear at times.

I hope you enjoyed your extra hour and made good use of the time – ‘cause you won’t get another one till next fall!


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