The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

October 31, 2013

To sleep, perchance to dream, for an extra hour

ENID, Okla. — I can’t wait.

It is almost my absolute favorite day on the calendar, the day to which I look forward year-round.

No, I’m not rushing the Christmas season. That’s up to local and national merchants, who will begin their last-minute Christmas shopping sales any day now.

No, I’m talking about the end of Daylight Saving Time.

It concludes at roughly 2 a.m. Sunday. So Saturday will be that glorious day when we gather with family and friends, eat turkey and pie, exchange gifts, tell stories, search for eggs, drink green beer, make memories ... OK, OK, we won’t do all that, but we should.

It is the day we turn our clocks back one hour.

That is a big deal, Mr. Smarty Pants, because we get an extra hour of sleep. Oh joy, oh bliss, 60 extra minutes of slumber. That means 3,600 more seconds of precious shuteye.

Sleep is a gift from heaven. Don’t think so? Just ask parents of a newborn. Heck, ask an old guy, like me.

 Sleep is restorative, sleep is healthy, sleep improves our memories, sleep helps us learn, sleep boosts our immune systems. Sleep is the second-best thing you can do in bed, right behind watching TV and eating peanut butter crackers. Oh, yeah, that other thing is pretty good, too.

When we are young, we fight sleep. We hate to take naps and we always beg to be allowed to stay up past our bedtime for “just a few more minutes, mommy.”

As we mature, we crave sleep, but only during daylight hours. Teenagers are nocturnal creatures, preferring to prowl at night and stay in bed all day.

In college, we become adept at the art of pulling the all-nighter, either for the purpose of achieving lofty academic goals or engaging in hearty partying.

Then time slams us straight in the face, so with job pressures, kids and the anxiety that comes with striving to become responsible adults, sleep becomes a prized and rare commodity.

As we age, the strangest thing will induce sleep. Like TV, for example. I don’t know how many times I have had to recap the plot of a program for my bride, or she for me. I have sat down more than once to watch the opening minutes of one football game, only to awaken in the latter stages of another.

Once you reach a certain stage in life, staying up late takes on a whole new meaning. Making it past the 10:15 TV weather becomes a real feat. New Year’s Eve becomes an evening-long battle, as torpidity threatens to torpedo the celebration. Happy New ... zzzz.

Not that the sleep of the chronologically advanced is exactly uninterrupted, but instead of being awakened in the wee hours by crying wee ones, you are stirred from slumber by more basic biological needs, with wee once again being the operative word.

Anyway, we’ll get another blessed hour of slumber come Saturday night, thanks to Benjamin Franklin, who first proposed the idea of Daylight Saving Time when he was serving as U.S. ambassador to France.

Of course there are downsides to old Ben’s brainchild. A 2010 study by German chronobiologists (yes, there are such people) found that human beings never adjust completely when clocks are moved ahead an hour in the spring, and that falling back makes things even worse. The phenomenon is known as “social jet lag.”

A 2008 study in Sweden found the risk of having a heart attack rises in the days following both the spring and fall time change.

I choose to ignore the doomsayers. I am going to bed right now, so it won’t seem so long until the clock strikes 12, the time change bunny drives his sleigh pulled by eight tiny turkeys, lands on the roof and comes down the chimney and leaves shamrocks, valentines and firecrackers under my pillow.

Or maybe I just dreamed that.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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