The Great Sleep Debate

I didn’t get into the shower Monday morning with my underpants on. At least, I hope that I didn’t, now that I know I’m supposed to watch out for that weirdness this week, along with throwing my paycheck into the trash, feeding cat food to the dogs, etc.

The Better Sleep Council ought to know. It’s entire reason for existence is to promote better sleep – paid to learn these things, of course, by the mattress-makers who make money when people sleep better. Hey, that’s the American Way.

So the Council makes it its business to delve into all sorts of matters involving sleep, and that includes our perennial shift to and from Daylight Savings Time.

Most of us just shrug, then twist the little dial, or attempt to remember how on earth to rejigger the remote control that resets the display on the face of the DVD player, or haul out the owners’ manuals and relearn each auto’s maddeningly complex time-change mechanism. Happily, our cell phones and networked computers can make the change automatically, since they are fed the information via satellite.

But a few of us are seriously flummoxed, according to the Council.

There is significant sentiment abroad in the land to abolish Daylight Saving Time, first instituted way back during World War II to give farmers an extra hour of daylight in which to work their fields . Cows can be milked in the dark, though the infamous 1871 Chicago fire lends an apocryphal cautionary note: Do not place a kerosene lantern within kicking distance of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. So if the farmers plodded through pre-dawn muck for milking, that left full daylight for fertilizing and harvesting.

See? I am afflicted. This started out being about Daylight Savings Time and here we are, attempting to find cow udders by Braille.

That’s what happens, according to the Better Sleep Council. A few of us get so seriously out of biorythm, Circadian-style whack that we get grumpy, forgetful, even a bit unbalanced physically.

News flash for those under age 70: The above behaviors are normal for septuagenarians. Just wait.

In the meantime, there is a movement to abolish this time switch.

I’m not opposed. I see value in not needing to relearn TV/DVD/VCR setup routines or try to find “clock” among six different new-car manuals touting tires, warranties, safety information , etc. That information makes me safer only because it takes so long to thumb through it that I fall asleep and therefore do not start the car to drive.

So I could support a year-around consistent 24-hour time scheme.

But if it happens, I want it to be Daylight Savings Time all year around.

My time-switch nadir does not come in spring. The “spring forward” loss of an hour’s sleep, whether it occurs in March as it now does, or in April or May as it formerly did, brightens my routine with that extra hour of daylight.

No, my funk deepens in autumn. Last year, in November, I left the house to go to work in darkness. I returned in darkness. As I drove home, the large gray old barn was a featureless hillock, and the orange-yellow shaft of egg-timer laying light was already highlighting the never-cleaned window in the chicken house. The dogs were wraiths, at first indistinguishable from deer as they bounded down the driveway to meet me. The fields, ours and our neighbors, were gray-brown blank slates unless the moon was totally full.

Entering, I had no energy for anything except supper, a bit of reading and bed.

During Daylight Savings Time, there is light enough to allow for some outside work to be done after supper, or at least to encourage an evening walk, or just sitting on the porch or inside at a window, seeing our small slice of the vast world, feeling not so alone, more connected to passing humans, and to earth and sky.

So if it were up to me, last weekend’s shift would be the final one.

Early risers will disagree, and dispute the value of having the sun shine in the evenings. That is their right, though I think it prudent to dismiss their arguments as the unfortunate ramblings of mentally aberrant people. Who in his/her right mind would take pleasure from bounding out of bed in knee-banging darkness when Mr. Pillow is so warm and snuggly and a squint-opened eyelid quickly flutters shut? All my life, I have loved that extra morning time in bed, be it a full half-hour or a mere half-minute stolen by slapping the “snooze” button. People who are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in predawn darkness are also addled, in my view.

But remember, my view itself is still addled. According to the Better Sleep Council, it can take a full week for time-afflicted humans’ biorhythms to return to some semblance of normalcy.

At least, we now have post-supper daylight in which to attempt the task.

Denny Bonavita has been an editor and publisher of newspapers in Warren, DuBois and the Brookville area, where he now resides. Email: