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by SUSAN TRETAKIS – Tick Tock! Google just verified that yesterday, November 4th, sunrise was at 7:32AM; today, November 5th, sunrise was at 6:32AM. Yesterday, sunset was at 6:37PM. Tonight the sky will darken at 5:36PM.

Yes, we have “fallen back” timewise – giving us a longer day – and an earlier sunset. I am reminded again how sunflowers turn to face the sun to catch every sunbeam; so too have we discovered a simple way to get more from out sun.

However, as with all things lately, the implementation of Daylight-Saving Time has been fraught with controversy since Benjamin Franklin conceived of the idea. Even as I write this, Massachusetts is pondering a change in their time zone – and anyone who traveled to Arizona knows it’s probably better to ask someone the time than to rely on your out-of-state- watch.

The daylight-saving time change forced most of us to “Spring Forward” and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moved an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us longer summer nights. Personally, I hated the “Spring-Forward” time change more than the Fall Back” version; waking up Monday morning after having lost an hour of precious sleep made me incredibly cranky. When I worked, driving to work in the dark – even with an additional cup of coffee – annoyed me.

I love the Moon; I don’t like driving by its light.

For many, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. WebMD explains that it is “similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.”

I do not travel much, so I’ll have to take WebMD’s words for it, but I do know that any time change affects my health, my sleep habits, and how I plan my day.

Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue – light – for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle.

Lately – daily – at whatever time the clock shows – if I am out of sync emotionally or physically – I look to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for answers.

I even have a TCM “Circadian/Body Clock” which – this morning – I set back one hour.

In his article “Circadian Rhythms, the Chinese Clock and How to Live in Sync”, Chad Dupuis writes that our “bodies have a number of processes that happen at regular intervals throughout the day. We respond to light and dark, hot and cold, and other natural polarities – in effect ‘yin and yang’.”

Modern life has us spending less time in natural environments. People work long hours and eat at even odder hours. These and other less natural behaviors we conduct disrupt these processes. Western medicine uses the term “circadian rhythms” to describe the processes and the changes that happen internally in response to our environment. Chinese Medicine uses the theory of the Chinese clock to describe a similar set of activities that happen on a daily basis and also affect our health.

Research is ongoing to understand all of the rhythms and their effects. There are some obvious issues, like jet lag, but even those of us who stay grounded in their hometowns may experience psychological issues, digestive problems, insomnia and fatigue.

“Circadian rhythms” describe the regular events that happen to everyone and everything on a daily basis. These rhythms can change sleep and wake cycles, release various hormones, influence body temperature and regulate other bodily functions. Cycles may difference in length for people which may explain why some of us are “night owls” and others are “morning people”.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that when presented with these concerns, most practitioners of Western medicine prescribe a medication, rather than describing any complimentary medicine practice. TCM is a highly developed and intricate form of medicine that differs from Western medical diagnosis.

In “Organ Times”, Dr. Lyndsay Wareham explains that “In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is an “organ clock” that represents the time of the day when each organ is functioning optimally and has the most energy. “There are 12 organ systems and 2 accessory systems that are represented by this clock. Each organ system is also associated with an emotion, taste, sense organ, season, etc.”

I remember being somewhat annoyed when I was complaining – OK, whining – about digestive issues, headaches and sleep disorders to my TCM practitioner, he would ALWAYS ask me to identify the time I was experiencing these problems. He would then insert acupuncture needles to balance the organs responsible for my symptoms.

He would explain that the flow of energy, or qi, through the “12 meridians (6 yin and 6 yang meridians) is to be the highest for a two-hour period each day for each organ”. Acupuncturists use this information diagnostically, both in the placement of needles as well as to suggest some TCM alternatives to be done at specific times.

Simple things – non-medicated things – like soaking one’s feet in warm water before bedtime, “to bring the qi energy down” from my overactive, over-thinking mind at bedtime. Things like understanding the need for a healthier spleen and kidneys for treating my chronic cold hands and feet and what foods and Chinese herbs would benefit me. Simple things for me to do and homeopathic remedies to take when my mind – for lack of a better description – “explodes” with self-doubt, self-recrimination and panic.

I began to chart my symptoms – to “clock them” in a sense. A pattern appeared for food cravings, emotional complaints and physical complaints evolved.   Seeing the connection between my moods and emotions at specific times and being able to see, courtesy of my Chinese Body Clock, which organs I needed to tend to – and nourish.

All without prescription drugs; indeed, self-knowledge is power.

Unlike Western medicine’s focus on the absence of disease, the heart of traditional Chinese medicine is maintaining balance between primal life forces and for me, TCM has shown me that self-care is both a privilege and responsibility.

I was sitting in my desk chair, with my cup of hot tea, watching both yesterdays and today’s sunrise. I watched last night’s sunset from my patio and will probably watch tonight’s as well. I am a sunrise and sunset fan. Sunrises remind me there is another day beginning, while sunsets help me bring closure to the day and etch-a-sketch the days’ problems away.

Truth be told, I am somewhat happier and more a peace right now than I was yesterday; my inner sunflower is quite content – here’s hoping everyone enjoys their “extra hour”!