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Wednesday Wellbeing: Sunbathing

Here is a snapshot of the last few mornings in my life :)

Sunday morning: I don't usually set an alarm to wake up on weekends, so I generally get up with the sun (around 7:30). I forgot to switch my alarm clock to Daylight Savings Time, and I rolled out of bed close to 8:30 instead.

Monday morning: Having correctly set my clock, I question it's accuracy at 7:30 when it goes off. I get up anyway despite it being dark.

Tuesday morning: I sleep all the way through the night (thanks to previous sleep deprivation and yesterday's acupuncture treatment) but it is still hard to fight the urge to keep sleeping.

This morning: I am right back on schedule and feeling adapted. What is the secret?

Switching around our clocks twice a year continues to be one of the most ill-informed decisions that our culture continues to repeat. It is akin to tolerating (en-masse) fast-food restaurants, overmedication by doctors, sedentary office work, mandatory vaccination schedules, and many more non-wellness-promoting norms. The only difference is that you can't opt out of this one (unless you want to move to Arizona). You must adapt to the change or be left behind.

I once had the flexibility in my schedule when I was in my late 20s to ignore DST. It felt like I was perpetually on vacation, but that's the rub. You have to come back to the real world eventually, and I ended up giving up on my one-man revolution after a few months. The transition still sucked. I had to start waking up earlier to make things fit properly. The result was exactly the same as if I had done it in March instead of July. There is no such thing as a free lunch; however, when it comes to DST, this is a meal that we don't even need to accept.

Until we start voting with our own clocks, we must learn how to adapt. Congress is still toying around with the idea of abolishing the time change, but I wouldn't get too hopeful. One tried and true solution is sunbathing. I don't mean the kind that you do beside the pool in the summer. I'm talking about a short blast of sun every morning on your eyes, face, and as much skin as you are brave enough to bare. The retinas and the skin all have photosensitive neurons that can detect when we are outside in direct sunlight. Even on the cloudiest day, the real sun creates more lumens (a measure of light) than the brightest bulb you can find. For our sunbathing to be successful, we must use the actual sun, not behind glass.

What does daily sunbathing look like? Upon the first 30 minutes of rising, get outside and spend 3-5 minutes in direct sunlight (even if it is overcast or raining). If you wake before dawn, get outside as soon as the sun comes up. If you are a shift worker and wake up after the sun has gone down you should get a different job, but in the meantime expose yourself to as much light upon waking up as possible, and wear sunglasses in the early morning hours to avoid bright light close to your bedtime.

The more time you can spend outside throughout the day, the better. Every second of real light you can get will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Use this as an excuse to go outside at lunchtime or to take a stroll. Prioritize time in nature during your days off. Accumulate time outside and you will adapt to the rhythms of the seasons. The first few days around the time change may be rough, but our bodies find a way of adjusting if we give them consistent cues. "Consistent cues" is the indispensable phrase. Good luck everyone.

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