Thursday, March 30, 2000

Sleepy? Put blame where it belongs




BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        I hate getting up in the morning. But since I have to do it once a day, I try to get it over as soon as possible. So, I climb out of the sack around 5:30 on weekdays. This is a sick way to live, but it gives me something to look forward to in retirement besides collecting coupons for Metamucil.

        Eventually — or right after I win the lottery, whichever comes first — I plan to stay up every night until dawn. I'll watch Dave, then Conan. Then I'll read a good book. Or maybe a bad book.

        Then I'll sleep until afternoon, getting up just in time to have a leisurely lunch.

        This would allow me to skip breakfast, which I already do, but at least I would not be awake to feel guilty about it. So I will be guilt-free and wide awake. On my own time. This is my idea of the Golden Years.

        Right now, I'm sleepy. And if I'm sleepy now, I can only imagine how I'll feel Monday morning, the first day of work after Daylight Savings Time begins. I'll be hanging over the coffee machine. I'll be yawning. I'll be generally out of sorts.

        This is Ben Franklin's fault.

Healthy, wealthy, groggy
        Daylight Savings Time was suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 in an essay. Ben had been nagging about this matter for years. First, his Poor Richard's Almanac made the outrageous promise that if you went to bed early and got up early, you'd be “healthy, wealthy and wise.”

        Franklin (who invented the lightning rod, bifocals, comb-overs and knee-high pantyhose) just wouldn't let it alone: “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.”

        Nag. Nag. Nag.

        He wrote that it struck him as silly and wasteful that people should “live much by candle-light and sleep by sunshine.”

        Finally we caved in. But it took a couple of world wars to accomplish it. Several countries, including Britain and the United States, started playing with their clocks during World War I and World War II to conserve energy by reducing demand for artificial light.

        But not all Americans fell in line with this, which confused those making train schedules or planning television broadcasts. Soon, nobody cared what happened to those making train schedules. But we did not want to take any chances on missing the Ed Sullivan Show.

        In 1966, Congress approved the Uniform Time Act that established a uniform Daylight Savings Time across the country. It begins the first Sunday in April and ends the last Sunday in October. Indiana is one of three states (the others are Arizona and Hawaii) that opted out.

Zombies on the job
        So Benjamin Franklin finally got his way, and now most people have to get up an hour earlier for most of the year. And we weren't getting enough sleep as it is, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Most sleep experts say adults should sleep about a third of our day — eight hours. The NSF survey, which polled 1,154 adults 18 years and older, found that most of us sleep just under seven hours a day during the work week.

        About 51 percent admitted that sleepiness on the job interferes with the amount of work they get done. (I believe that indicates that approximately 49 percent of respondents were not being 100 percent truthful.)

        Hours of maximum sleepiness are 2-7 a.m. and 2-5 p.m., according to the American Sleep Disorders Association and Sleep Research Society. These hours accounted for 41.6 percent of automobile accidents in a 1988 study.

        So, basically, we are all walking around like zombies. Until April, when we start walking around like zombies an hour earlier.

        Some people might blame Johnny Carson, who hooked us all on late-night television. Others might blame Bill Gates, who hooked us on our personal computers. Or Al Gore, who invented the Internet. Some people, I suppose, would say it's our own fault.

        But I prefer to blame Benjamin Franklin.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at laurapulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears regularly on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and Insight's Northern Kentucky Magazine.