Fall Time Change 2016: Sleep Before Election Tuesday

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Each year I look forward to the Monday after the Sunday when the clocks are turned back an hour at the end of Daylight Saving Time. Time is in such short supply — more than ever in the 21st century, because we lead such multitasking lives. So often we are not present in the moments and minutes of the passing hours. T.S. Elliot wrote that “all time is unredeemable,” but I think the hour of morning light we gain in the autumn when we “fall back” is an exception to his observation. After all, time is the medium we all have to work with.

This year, we can certainly use an extra hour of sleep since many of us have not had restorative sleep for months now as we have suffered through the current presidential political campaign. I have succumbed to the anxiety stoked by the 24-hour media cycle, obsessively searching and reading the “news” late into the night for almost half a year now. I know better. Good sleep hygiene involves turning off all communication devices and removing  them from the bedroom hours before sleep.  I haven’t done this in months. I slept with my laptop, just in case. In order to sleep well, we also need a peaceful pre-bedtime routine. Well, you can tell I haven’t had that. In order to manage disruptive sleep patterns, I have exhorted others to prepare for the inevitable early morning wakening with optimism asking that they repeat this pre-sleep mantra out loud, “I will wake up but I can return to sleep with meditative breathing and self control.” When I woke up in the early morning hours over these past six months from a fitful sleep, I actually turned on my computer night after night and logged in to my “trusted” media sources to make sure that nothing worse had happened since my last fix. No chance of meditative breathing and clearly no self control to help me return to sleep.

When I woke up in these pre-dawn hours, I ruminated about what I did the day before to exhort my innocent fellow citizens to participate in voting. My interactions with taxi drivers, salon staff, random people behind  counters everywhere, people on the street, and friends and family have all been affected by my compulsion to ask, “Are you registered to vote?” “Are you voting?” “Do you know where your polling station is?” I have reminded so many people that if they choose not to vote then, “no vote, no voice.” I carried printed voter registration forms with me and filled them out for the drivers who were not registered to vote while I was in the car, then gave them the pre-stamped forms to be signed and mailed.

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  • Pam Goldman November 9, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Thank you Dr. Allen for the part you played, and to Michelle for your incredible lesson…but sadly many of us went to sleep with anxiety and awoke at 3AM to watch an “acceptance speech” we never thought we would see. I have never been very political but feel today that “women’s voices for change” has taken on an entirely new meaning. I hope we haven’t set our country back 50 years, or worse. I pledge to do what I can to make sure women’s voices will always be heard.

    • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. November 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Dear Pam,
      Thank you for your condolence note. Your comment was unexpected and a reminder that I can’t just take to my bed in despair but will have to find the strength to start over again. I never believed the polls that Hilary Clinton would win this election. I know the people who hate women in power. I know the people who feel that “government” is responsible for all the woes of the unemployed and that “liberals” have ruined “American values. I also know the people who want to keep the taxes on their enormous wealth low. Those of us who did something to make it possible for a competent woman to become President of the United States must remember that we did try. We must grieve for the loss of the country we thought we knew and look for reconciliation in the country that we really live in
      . But after grief, we must begin the battle again: this time on the ground to train and support young women and members of all minorities…those just beginning their careers in public service; we need to organize and register everyone in every city. Demographics are changing rapidly in this country and we need to be part of the process that helps all those who have been marginalized in this race to become registered to vote and to become part of the civic process that entails understanding the issues and supporting candidates who will serve all the people. To everyone who did not vote, even if “it did not matter in NYC” I remind you: No vote, No voice.
      Dr. Pat

  • Michelle Abel November 7, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    In my 6th grade social studies class today, in response to the voting booth I set up, one student asked if he needed to vote. After all we had discussed, researched, and debated, I opened this up for discussion. What resulted was the idea that democracy is a verb more than a noun. It is an action- what we Do, not what we have. What we must do to preserve what we have. A lot for 6th graders to comprehend, but the most essential goal of social studies- what does it mean to be a citizen? What are the rights and responsibilities of the individual here and in the global community? Our young need to understand the power of voice and the privelege we have to exercise that voice in our democracy.. a voice that many do not have.
    Raising awareness, empowering individuals, young and old, “to be the change they want to see”.
    Here’s to building a better future,,,

    • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. November 7, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks for the work that you are doing: teaching sixth graders about the responsibilities and rewards of citizenship. Perhaps you could create a podcast for the adults in America who seemed to have forgotten: no vote, no voice.
      Pat Allen