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Time to ‘Fall Back’ : Watch Body Clock After Waking Up Hour Later

Times Staff Writer

So, you’ve heard about the time change. Don’t worry, this is the one you like .

That’s right, at 2 a.m. Sunday, you’ll “fall back” to 1 a.m., allowing yourself the once-a-year sensation of experiencing everything that happens between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. twice .

Well, not quite. . . . You won’t get an immediate replay of “Dick Clark’s Golden Greats,” which plays at 1 a.m. Sunday on Channel 51.

What you will get is darkness earlier in the evening, meaning fewer--or no --bike rides and runs after work. But, hey, look for earlier screenings at the Santee Drive-In, which cranks up the projector every night at sundown.

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“Freddie’s Revenge” plays better under the cover of darkness than at twilight anyway, especially on Halloween Night.

Annual Flip-Flop

Yes, it’s the annual return to Pacific Standard Time, which most San Diegans enjoy about as much as they resent the lost hour of sleep required to invoke Pacific Daylight Time each spring.

Not everyone is convinced that the autumn half of the seasonal time change is everything it’s hyped to be.

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A pair of experts take its side effects seriously.

Dr. Renata Shafor is a neurologist and director of the San Diego Regional Sleep Disorder Center at Harbor View Medical Center. Shafor believes that time changes, whether forward or back, wreak negative effects on the body’s rhythms, especially in sleepers prone to depression.

“For the majority of people, such a change goes unnoticed,” she said. “But, in many, there’s heightened confusion, similar to jet lag. A lot of us are somewhat sleep-deprived. So, sleeping an hour longer is probably wonderful. But, for people with depression, who have early, middle-of-the-night awakenings, it’s just one more hour to deal with depression.”

‘The Winter Blues’

Dr. Steven Ornish is a psychiatrist who says that each autumn, usually at the “fall-back” point, we sense the rumblings of what he calls “seasonal affective disorder.” SAD, he said, was just recognized by the American Psychiatric Assn. and is commonly known as “the winter blues,” which, believe it or not, happens even in San Diego.

SAD is characterized by fatigue, melancholia, carbohydrate craving and weight gain, Ornish said. Part of what brings it on, he noted, is “the hour of darkness” incurred with the time change.

“As nights get longer, we see a greater incidence of depression, which is, of course, easily treatable,” he said.

San Diego is no different in this respect than gloomy Boston. Ornish said that SAD has more to do with increased darkness than button-up-your-overcoat temperatures.

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“Locally, while changes in temperature or climate are not significant, changes in hours of daylight are,” he said. “Whereas it used to get dark at 8, now it’s getting dark at 6. It has a definite effect. Days are shorter, nights longer.”

Ornish said a sleep-inducing hormone, melatonon, has recently been studied by scientists and is a possible cause of seasonal affective disorder.

“Melatonon is a chemical in the brain related to light,” he said. “Light therapy--a patient sitting in front of a hot fluorescent light for two hours a day--has actually been offered as a treatment. Exposure to light seems to treat the kind of depression stirred by SAD.”

From Morose to Giddy

Victims of SAD may be morose during the winter, but, by the time they “spring forward,” they’re likely to be giddy, he said--even if it means one less hour of sleep.

“In spring and summer, they experience elation, high amounts of energy,” Ornish said. “They’re up there on top of the world.”

If only the San Diego Chargers could feel such a feeling right now. The Chargers take their 2-6 won-lost record into Seattle this weekend as woebegone underdogs once again.

Rick Smith, public relations director for the Chargers, said that football teams worry “a lot” about jet lag and time changes.

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“When Don Coryell was our coach, he used to fight the Eastern Time Zone like Capt. Ahab going after Moby Dick,” Smith said. “When he coached at St. Louis, he didn’t have long trips. But here, he hated having to fly to Miami. That’s always our longest trip--a three-hour time difference. He would always have us fly out Friday, instead of Saturday, which is customary. This year, we play in Miami, Cincinnati and Atlanta, so, for each of those, we leave Friday instead of Saturday. Coryell started that.”

Coryell wasn’t the only one who worried about it, Smith said. A former running back consistently overslept the deadline for bus rides to the stadium preceding an East Coast kickoff.

Dr. Shafor said that such a lapse is not unusual, especially in this high-tech age in which unlimited-mileage yuppies routinely fly from Maine to California just to get the job done.

She said any time change makes little difference to these types, whose bodily rhythms are more like rock ‘n’ roll than a lullaby by Brahms.

Shafor said that alcohol, tobacco and drugs--of any ilk--are perverse disturbers of a restful sleep. Prolonged insomnia affects performance, making us, in her view, stilted, world-weary executors of daily tasks.

Just how important is sleep?

Shafor said recent research shows that nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were thought to have been caused, in part, by human error brought on by sleeplessness.

You boys up at San Onofre--y’all enjoy that extra hour this weekend, ya hear?


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