01 November 2008

One More Hour

We set the clocks back tonight and tomorrow morning I will rise nearly with the sun and enjoy that delicious semi-annual sensation of having somehow beat Mother Nature. As much as we all love that moment in spring when we seem to extend the day, I prefer the fall because we truly gain the hour. One brief but precious hour. My body clock seamlessly realigned to earlier mornings and shorter evenings, which for those of us living alone is often a blessing. The hours of darkness can be painfully long for a single – work day done, dog walked, dinner dishes cleaned, and while a blissful time for reading or writing or the occasional visit with friends, often a bit too long. In fact, about an hour too long.
NPR yesterday reported results of a long-term longitudinal study that suggests that this one hour more of sleep alone may be the significant factor producing a 5% reduction in heart attacks during the 24-hours immediately following the fall-back time change. In a remarkable correlation, heart attacks increase exactly 5% in the wake of the spring time change that equates to one hour less of sleep.
Of course not everyone uses the extra hour for sleep as our bodies take time to adapt, so what becomes of that extra hour? Do we languish in bed just a bit longer given the gift of time? The dog may feel like she has to be walked, but she too will have to adjust. I might enjoy an hour of early morning reading in bed, a special reward as reading time, albeit the most cherished time of my day, always waits until all else has been fulfilled. Perhaps I will call daughter Dana in London, where clocks were reset a week earlier for some reason, and might catch her at a café on waiting for the tube, so that we might have an impromptu chat, cell phone to cell phone, a phenomenon I confess I still find remarkable and inexplicable.
This day of the time change always feels surreal, as no matter the actual hour it feels later. There is a great jolt of pleasure when peering at the newly set clocks to realize that less of the day has passed than expected, although a harsh realization when too soon the sun falls into the sea. The hour longer day plunges us into the semblance of winter, when we will return home from work in the dark and awaken early and before we’ve even had a chance to enjoy the extra time it slips away.
I’d like to use this hour well. Perhaps a bit more sleep. Read. Blog. Perhaps I will meditate, which I do rarely, largely because my mind wanders, although day-dreaming is a nearly daily pasttime. Perhaps the hour of Pilates that tends to fall into the cracks of a busy schedule. An extra long walk without rushing back in service of work or chore. Have a long talk with an East Coast friend, whose longer day is well underway. Perhaps I will take a nap, now there’s a rare treat. On the East Coast, I often used the time to switch out from the summer to winter closet, which one does not do so fully here, the lines less pronounced between seasons, clothing etiquette blurred. This year, I am invited to a cocktail party at 5:00 PM, but I will have a very full day before I leave, having slept well and used my time well and paid closer attention to the day, the attention we should all pay daily so that we use all our hours well. And when my body yearns for sleep, sooner than the clock would suggest, I will hold off and hold on to this day just a bit longer, granted this small coveted pleasure of one more hour in the day.

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