March 9, 2015 • Musings
We lovingly refer to the end and beginning of Daylight Savings Time as the “good one” and the “bad one,” respectively. We gain an extra hour of sleep when our clocks fall back each autumn, and the extra hour is usually welcomed enthusiastically in our house, where we never seem to sleep sufficiently long or sufficiently well.
In contrast, losing an hour each spring when our clocks jump ahead pushes us deeper into sleep deprived anger and frustration. Who has an hour to spare? Certainly no one we know.
And yet, this year’s start to daylight savings time feels different. Perhaps it is the prolonged whiteness of winter, or perhaps it is that Saturday’s sunlight enabled me to wear shoes with no socks (even as I dodged snow banks in my path). Perhaps it is the streaming sunlight our bodies are craving, or perhaps it is the sound of wind chimes outside my office.
Yes, I’m looking forward to the extra daylight. Even at the expense of an hour of sleep.
This week seems like a good week to recommit to routine as well. The doldrums of February are over; the chaos of snow days should be too. We settle in for the remainder of the spring, and those of us bound by agrarian calendars of semesters and school schedules have a few months before the routine changes again.
Yes, it’s a good time to recommit. To exhale. To pause. And to start fresh.
Georgia Frances King wrote about the importance of routine and its relation to sunlight in Winter’s issue of Kinfolk. “For the past few billion years,” she writes, “The sun has reliably risen every morning and set every evening.” What remarkable punctuation to our days.
She argues, with the support of Benjamin Smarr, a doctor of neurobiology at UC Berkley who studies circadian rhythms on our health and mental well being, that maintaining a routine helps our bodies respond to physical and environmental cues with more ease, instead of “confusing our bodies’ internal clocks” by “objectifying light” as we do with too many late night episodes of House of Cards and too many early morning taps of the snooze feature.
Routines – particularly those built around sunrise and sunset – take advantage of nature’s cues, and our bodies respond in kind. Rise slightly earlier for a brisk morning walk with the sunrise, King suggests (to the glee of my dog). “These times might be the most important parts of the day to be out and about… as the rapidly changing light quality…. orients our [bodies’] cells to wake up or wind down.”
What’s more, I’ve found in my own observations about the use of my time that what I do first each morning and what I do last each evening plays a large role in managing the scarce resource that is my time. I neither rise quickly nor sleep promptly. My body requires thirty or so minutes at either end of my day to process, plan, and relax. Without thirty minutes each morning, my civility suffers. Without thirty minutes each evening, my sleep does. In either case, I’m falling short of the professional – not to mention the person – I’d like to be.
And yet, even knowing myself as I do, I find it increasingly hard to stick to a routine. There are too many tasks that must be done before the day ends, and I’m often too tired to wake slowly, instead rushing out of bed to hurry through an abbreviated morning routine.
King gives us permission to listen to our bodies and take our cues from the sun. “We’ve lost touch with what our bodies are geared to crave,” she argues, “And cues from sunlight might be one of the best natural ways to resolidify those missed connections.”
And what better time to recommit than when our clocks tick forward? As we naturally crave additional sunlight, songs of birds, and warmer temperatures of spring, so too may we crave light changes at dawn and dusk.
Perhaps something good might come out of this less-than-ideal clock change after all. At the very least, House of Cards will last longer.
Georgia Frances King’s article is entitled “The Meaning of Light” and found on pages 100 through 109 in the 2014 Winter issue of Kinfolk, Volume 14.