The best way to deal with the time change

What’s your superpower? Mine is sleeping.

I am a champion sleeper, having long ago accumulated the 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell says we need to become a master at any skill.

And when anyone messes with sleep, I react the way the bluebird above did when an interloper appeared, which is to say, not well. (Another fantastic photo by my friend Carol Farrington.)

That’s one reason I hate the change back to standard time each November. It messes with my sleep and means that it’s dark before my workday ends. (In New England, after the time change, it’s dark before 5 p.m., so I don’t want to hear any whining from you Southerners who have sunlight until 5:30.)

I can’t do anything about the infernal darkness, but two years ago, it occurred to me that there was, in fact, something I could do to protect my sleep: Ignore the time change. The government tells us when to change our clocks, but it doesn’t tell us what time we have to get up and go to bed. (Not yet, anyway.)

So I decided to go on a standard time strike, and stay on my body’s sleeping schedule. This was a surprisingly easy thing to do. I just set my alarm an hour earlier and went to bed an hour earlier after the time change. Voila. Problem solved. I didn’t have to adjust to the time change, because my body was on the same schedule, no matter what the clock said.

The first year was a learning experience, and I didn’t stick with it until March. But last year, I stayed on “Jen time” until March and loved the experience, so much so that I was happy to wake up this morning and change my alarm for tomorrow at 4 instead of the usual 5.

Because this, my friends, is the beauty of a standard time strike, for which I have become an evangelist:

Not only do you not have to “deal with the time change” — I’m so tired of seeing that headline — but also, instead of one “extra” hour of sleep, you get seven “extra” hours of productive time each week.

Here’s how that works.

If you normally get up at 6, start getting up at 5 tomorrow. Your body won’t know the difference. Again: It’s the schedule it’s already on. You will magically become an early riser (or an earlier riser) with zero effort on your part, and you can use that “extra hour” to write the great American novel or knit the great American scarf or do whatever you’ve been wanting to do if only you had more time. (Or just lounge about reading with an extra cup of coffee like it’s Sunday morning. That works, too.)

It’s a sleight-of-hand trick, I’ll admit, and won’t work for everyone. The people who benefit most from this are people like me: people who love mornings more than nights, and people who like to follow a schedule. And there is a downside, or I should say, something that night owls will consider a downside, which is that to pull this off, you have to go to bed an hour earlier, too.

I personally don’t consider this a downside. Especially since — have I mentioned? — it’s now FREAKIN’ DARK AT 5 PM where I live. The earlier I can get in bed during the cold and dark of winter, the better. The only time I really regretted this schedule last year was when I had to turn off a Patriots game in third quarter and miss yet another thrilling comeback.

Doesn’t look like that’s going to be a problem for me this year.

For you skeptics, may I draw your attention to a fascinating book, Seize the Daylight, the Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time by David Prerau. It turns out, there is a long history of rebellion against government-ordered time changes, most amusingly when, in 1973, the 500 citizens of Block Island, Rhode Island, decided to go on daylight saving time when the rest of the country was on standard time.

Memorably, when someone asked a town official “What if the rest of the country refuses to go along with Block Island Time?,” the official replied, “Oh, phooey on them.”

This country needs many more phooeys than (one-syllable expletives that I won’t write on a family friendly blog), and it also needs more people willing to buck convention, especially convention that a majority of Americans don’t want.

It’s hard to find anyone who can even explain why we change the clocks twice each year (uh, something to do with farmers? No. Read Prerau’s book) let alone defend the practice. Legislators in more than 30 states have put forth bills trying to stop the statutory madness, but it literally requires an act of Congress, that same Congress that couldn’t pass another stimulus bill.

So here we are at the start of another maddening cycle. You can grumble about it, or cheerfully go about your life in the way that suits you best. Remember: The government can order Verizon and Sprint to change the time on our cell phones. But it can’t tell us when to get up or go to bed.