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Time Zone Shift (copy)

This is a busy week, so let's take a quick look at your to-do list to make sure you're staying on top of it:

Got adequate supplies of candy for Wednesday night, when trick-or-treaters will descend on your porch? Good. Got your own costume ready to go? Excellent. You're down to just a couple of election races to ponder before you drop off your ballot? Good job.

And are you starting to adjust your sleep patterns so that you're ready for this weekend's switch back to standard time? 

No? You're not alone.

Now, you might be asking: Why do I need to think about my sleep patterns? Isn't this the weekend when I "fall back," and get back that hour I lost during the spring switch to daylight time? 

That's true, as far as it goes. But experts now say that it's not really a question of regaining sleep lost months ago; what really has an impact on your system is the disruption to your circadian rhythms. And anything that disrupts that rhythm goes hand-in-hand with potential safety risks, especially in a nation that suffers from sleep deprivation.

One big safety risk involves drowsy or fatigued drivers. The Oregon Department of Transportation says that during the last five years, 51 people have died in 48 state crashes that were attributed at least in part to drowsy or fatigued drivers.

So experts suggest that drivers prepare for the time change on Sunday morning by adjusting their sleep habits a few days ahead of the change. And if you end up getting an additional hour or so of sleep along the way, that's not a bad thing: Research indicates that 3 out of every 10 people get less than six hours of sleep. And people generally need seven to nine hours of sleep (each night; not over a week) to achieve peak performance.

All the more reason why it's continually baffling that the United States continues to cling to the twice-yearly ritual of fiddling with the clock, despite a growing mountain of evidence that it's a bad idea. And, in fact, research continues to suggest that the reasons why we adopted daylight saving time in the first place just don't hold up to scrutiny.

Here's the bottom line: We shouldn't be making this time switch at all. We should choose one time, standard or daylight saving (our preference is daylight saving, but it doesn't really matter) and stick with it year-round. The time we would save in not being forced to adjust our clocks twice a year is time that could be better spent in many other pursuits. For starters, we could get a little more sleep. (mm)

Political courage

For years now, the nonpartisan organization Vote Smart has asked candidates to take its "Political Courage Test." The name is a bit of a misnomer in that you wouldn't think the test requires much courage at all — rather, the organization just asks candidates for their positions on the day's top issues, and this is information that most candidates should be able to rattle off in their sleep.

But each year, the vast majority of candidates decline to take the test, on grounds that it might give ammunition to opponents. And what could be worse than being forced to defend your own positions?

This year in Oregon, Vote Smart asked the 17 candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives to take the test. In all, nine responded — a 53 percent return rate. The good news is the Oregon rate was tied with Iowa for the third-best mark in the nation. (Delaware, at 83 percent, and Idaho, with 60 percent, scored better.)

The bad news, of course, is that Oregon only scored 53 percent. And not one of the five Oregon House incumbents running for re-election bothered to take the test. Make of that what you will.

In the meantime, if you're looking for details about this year's candidates and issues, you'll find a wealth of information at votesmart.org. (mm)

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Managing Editor