Get Some Sleep: Fall back tips
November 1st, 2011
12:53 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Fall back tips

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs regularly on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

The autumn equinox has come and gone, but many of us here in the Midwest have continued to fool ourselves that it is really just late summer.

But the game is over once we turn the clocks back and we start driving home from work in the dark. The clock change that is mandated by the end of daylight saving time is really the marker for many people that a change in seasons has happened.

For people who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the change in autumn means more hours of darkness and colder weather, which keeps many people indoors. As a result, many feel more depressed and have more sleep disturbance as well as daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

The actual change in the clock, which will occur at 2 a.m. Sunday, is a circadian shift - in the body's natural 24-hour rhythm - that is better tolerated than the clock change in the spring, especially if you follow a few simple recommendations.

The change in the fall is easier to deal with than the one in the spring because, in the fall, on the Sunday night after the clock change, your body feels that it is one hour later than what the clock reads. So if you normally feel sleepy at 11 p.m., you will feel sleepy at 10 p.m.

What to do? You can go ahead and go to bed. Let’s face it, most of us are sleep-deprived anyway because of scheduling too little time to sleep, so get that extra hour of sleep. Or you can force yourself to stay up until your usual bedtime.

For most of us, it is relatively easy to stay up a bit later than we are used to, while it is almost impossible for most people to lie down and go to sleep if they are not sleepy. That is why the spring clock change is a bigger disruption to many people’s sleep rhythm.

I actually recommend that you go to bed when you feel sleepy. It is wisdom gained from seeing thousands of patients with sleep troubles (although my grandmother would have told you the same thing). For many people, if they push themselves to stay up, they then get the proverbial second wind and end up awake for hours.

Unfortunately, the alarm clock rings at the usual time, and off we are again, starting yet another week of work sleep-deprived.

Of course, one reason people get a second wind is the things they do in order to stimulate themselves. For example, they work on the computer or watch TV. The light emitted from these screens signals the brain that it is time to get up and plow the field.

How sleepy you feel on that Sunday night after the change depends on whether you turned your clock back before you went to bed or waited until morning. Changing the clock should be based on people’s normal sleep schedules and on whether they have sleep problems. If you feel that basically your sleep is normal, but you know that often you are not allowing yourself that good eight hours of sleep that most of us need, then set your clock back the night before and get up at your usual time. That way, you have gained an hour of sleep.

If, on the other hand, you regularly get your eight hours of sleep and might not want an extra hour, don’t set the clock back the night before. If you get up at the same time you usually do, then you will have your normal amount of sleep and feel that you have gained an hour on Sunday morning when you turn the clock back.

The same advice holds true if you have sleep disorders such as insomnia or delayed sleep phase syndrome. These disorders make your sleep/wake schedule rather fragile such that an extra hour might not be a good thing; rather, it could throw your schedule way out of whack.

For most people, it is not the acute shift in the clock that is the problem in the fall. It is all the short, gray days ahead and the long periods of darkness. Winter conditions in the Northern Hemisphere can lead to sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, fatigue and depression.

So as we shift into the cold, dark season, try to get as much light in the morning and throughout the day as possible, even using a light box if necessary. Also, try to keep to a regular daily exercise routine.

These basic health habits can help ward off the winter blues and help you get regular sleep.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.

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Filed under: Sleep

soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. Bill

    The best advice I give people, concerning sleep, is to learn to sleep like a child again. They can fall asleep anywhere, at any time, and without a care in the world. Too often, we lay down to sleep, but don't allow our brains to slow down, and the million things running through our heads end up giving us a bad night's sleep. Learn to set it aside, like a box of worries, get a good night's sleep, and then you can pick it up again in the morning (if you want). You'll soon discover that you're getting the best sleep of your life.....or, at least, your life since you left childhood behind.

    November 1, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SoundGuy

      True, it's thoughts that prevent us adults from falling asleep. My advice: practice paying focused attention on something like a wall clock, your breath or even recorded sounds of nature, like those offered by TranscendentalTones. The latter are even better, because you can't anticipate them, so you have to focus more. This will drive your everyday worries and thoughts out to make room for relaxation and deep, deep sleep.

      November 1, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • anonymous

      Children do not care about time, Bill, except where parents poison their minds with time ideas. Do you care about time, Bill? If you do then you cannot 'learn to sleep like a child again' .Put away your time ideas and then you will not care about whether it is day or night, what season it is or what day, month or year it is.

      November 5, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
  2. mainer

    Dont set your clock back get an extra hour every day.

    go to bed on "fast" time

    November 1, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bdgfn

      Huh? Who said anything about setting the clock back every day? It's one day a year.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      Set it back 24 hrs once every 24 years, give yourself an extra day.

      November 5, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  3. Dr. Ralph Downey

    Dr. Shives,

    Your article is the well-written, clear and conveys the important concepts of a topic that is not so easily explained. Thank you for a job well done.

    November 3, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. exhausted

    If we adopted a better work-life balance in the USA and didn't work 12 hours at a stressful job followed by several hours of taking care of family members who should either take care of themselves or help taking care of the kids, sleep would come easier and be more refreshing. It isn't the clock that's the enemy. It's the job and the family.

    November 4, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Belinda

      I agree. We need more balance. I wish we shut down at Noon and go home to come back after a few hours like some countries 🙂

      November 5, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse |
    • Sand

      So true exhausted, I 100% agree with you and am in the same boat, and exhausted myself!

      November 5, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  5. Anna

    We have M-F 7-5 jobs. We set our clock back Sat. morning and spend the weekend on the "new" time. Monday is easier.

    November 4, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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    November 4, 2011 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Belinda

    Thank you for the article. Its nice to read something good and informative. Tired of gossip and political slander. Great read and very helpful 🙂

    November 5, 2011 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. georgia england

    What? Honestly I found this article a total waste of time.. You can either move your clock back the night before or in the morning? Really? you need a medical degree and a national forum to tell us this?

    November 5, 2011 at 03:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • saty

      Agree! Dumb article that says nothing concrete or useful..

      November 5, 2011 at 04:58 | Report abuse |
    • Kimmelin Hull

      Your comment is totally uncalled for. There are plenty of people out there who struggle with sleep issues who can benefit from this advice–advice they may truly know, but need to hear from another person to act upon. Please try to use the internet to spread kindness rather than venom.

      November 5, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • They might grow out of it

      For cryin' out loud, it's just an hour Kimmelin. You have to adjust more than that just flying cross-country. You talk like this crucial hour is a medical emergency. Give it some perspective. And if you don't know that a good deal of bantering is the norm in these comment sections, wait until you get a little online experience. Spread kindness... a noble thought but, yeah, right.

      November 5, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
    • Dada

      I agree. Dumb article. No need to plan anything for a single-hour clock change. Waste of online space.

      November 5, 2011 at 20:01 | Report abuse |
    • LindaY

      Back in the 1960s, we changed the clocks on Sunday nights, not Saturday. If we must do this clock change nonsense, that was at least a prudent decision. People turned up at work or school too early or too late because they forgot the time change. I change the clocks before midnight on Sunday; it works for me. It might work better for some others to change it Sunday morning.

      November 7, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse |
  9. al

    personally, could never sleep well – when i was 7 yo, i was last to fall asleep and first one to wake up. the only time when i slept like some sedated person was when i was 17-18 yo, maybe the hormone thing.
    tried pills – fixes nothing, even ended up sleepwalking sometimes.
    now i just don't care anymore – if i can't sleep, then i don't.

    November 5, 2011 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dee

    It is 4:52 a.m., and here I am; that should tell you a lot. Last night I felt a little sleepy quite early, so went to bed, not even doing my usual rituals–face-washing, teeth-brushing, etc. Also using anew iphone sleep cycle program and sound machine and focus techniques (breathing, progressive relaxation, etc.). At midnight, I broke down and took an Ambien and tossed through that until 3:30, when I just said ... well, I won't repeat what i said. I, like Al, am a lifelong insomniac and would give up a lot to sleep deeply and sweetly. AGGGHHHH!

    November 5, 2011 at 04:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dale

      we are married over 36 years and never used any sleeping pills. Try this: kick your dog off the bed, turn off TV, throw away you iphone or ipad and have "quickie". There is good jazz music all nite on satellite to put you in the mood without any pills.

      November 5, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  11. Jonathan

    I am up working. But I like my job, and I love my family, and getting up early lets me get stuff done so I can spend time with them.

    November 5, 2011 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Keith

    Here's a crazy idea, let's get rid of Daylight Savings time. I particularly don't see the need for it.

    November 5, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bdgfn

      Agreed. It is an out-dated concept that has no logical place in current society.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
    • Juls

      I pray they never get rid of Daylight Saving Time. I would much rather see it apply year round.

      I leave for work around 8:15 every morning and often don't get home until after 6pm. I need those few hours of light after work. I dread standard time every year.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
  13. Ted Wu

    Excuse me for getting off the subject.
    Instead of talking about sleep and changing the time, I would like to know the brand name of the white clock shown on the top of the article and, if possible, where to buy it.
    Except for the hands, it is quite beautiful.

    November 5, 2011 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ME

    I so agree.
    It is the early darkness that is the problem..
    But..the morning begins earlier...and I am an early bird....So I plan to do my walking in the morning as it will be almost dark when I get home for work.
    If you can get some outdoor walking in while the sun is out you will not be so depressed!!
    Your life will improve 150%...It is our call!!

    November 5, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Max

      You are right, walking or exercising during daylight instead of during evenings and night,is far more beneficial. And it wont affect the ability to fall asleep which some people suffer from when they exercise in evenings.

      November 5, 2011 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
  15. jeff

    Changing time is silly. I have lived in places that didnt change time and it was much better (arizona, hawaii, indiana (before idiot governor daniels messed it up)). If it is such a great idea for certain businesses, let them change their work schedule as they feel the need to. It is time to question this semi-annual exercise in time-foolery and have some national debate over the whole thing.

    November 5, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve M


      November 5, 2011 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  16. Time ToGo

    The best thing to do is to get rid of this "Daylight Savings Time". It serves absolutely not one good iota of purpose and actually hinders many people who have to switch back and forth with each clock in the house, the workplace, and elsewhere. Most countries do not have this atrocity, this poor excuse to "save" time. Let's Do Away With It Already!

    November 5, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Max

    Avoiding caffeine before sleep helps the mind a lot in relaxing and falling asleep.

    November 5, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bdgfn

      This isn't just coffee, either. This includes Coke/Pepsi, most teas, even hot chocolate since cocoa has caffeine in it.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
  18. Dutch

    A six-pack of beer in the evening will help.

    November 5, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bdgfn

      And finally, the idiot fringe is heard from...

      November 5, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
  19. grinning awake

    Someone wrote an entire article on getting an extra hour of sleep? How complicated does this have to be??

    November 5, 2011 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Max

      These days so many people suffer from insufficient sleep that its turning out to be a bigger health problem than cholesterol or obesity are in the developed world. So articles like these are certainly useful for many people.

      November 5, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse |

    And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
    And racing around to come up behind you again
    The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
    And shorter of breath and one day closer to death

    November 5, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rob

    pound 12 beer and pass out.

    November 5, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Max

      and screw up the next day?? 🙂

      November 5, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse |

    Every year is getting shorter
    Never seem to find the time
    Plans that either come to nought
    Or half a page of scribbled lines
    Hanging on in quiet desparation is the English way
    The time is gone
    The song is over
    Thought I'd something more to say

    November 5, 2011 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply


    November 5, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. J

    Here is some advice. Why don't we stop changing our clocks and just leave it on daylight savings time ALL. YEAR ROUND? no other country in the world move their clock so why don't we just keep it where it is? Studies have shown that when we move our clocks forward in March people get in more accident on the first Monday after the change bc of losing that 1 hr of sleep. Well, let's just stop the change. I say keep it on DST so that it's one less thing to worry about in our lives!

    November 5, 2011 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Bojangles

      Good News there are states that do that. So now, MOVE!

      November 5, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
    • Juls

      I agree – keep DST all year round.

      However, it is NOT true that no other country moves their clocks ahead. In fact, most country have the equivalent to DST. I think only a handfull of countries – out of over 200 – do not have the equivalent of DST.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      Here is an idea. Schedule your own day and quit worrying about how others schedule theirs. Just because the rest of the herd does one thing does not mean you are obligated to follow.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • bdgfn

      Actually, many countries around the world do change their clocks along with the US...

      November 5, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      I agree. Leave the clocks alone. There is not one piece of evidence that turning a clock forward or backwards will make a person sleep better. Everyone has different sleep habits. All it does is make the power companies richer because you have to keep your lights on longer in the winter.

      November 5, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
  25. Mr. Bojangles

    The only thing that solves a problem is an answer, NOT worrying at night and not sleeping. Thoughts are what race around in your mind and keep you awake, if you practice to work to clear our your mind so you can sleep it will work or your hurting yourself later in the day, believe me. It does for me at least when so much with teaching, grad school, life, retirement, the idiot who cut me off on the road, how will I pay this bill, etc. come around.

    November 5, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. justsayin'

    This Dr. recommends going to bed when you are sleepy. I never thought of that. She also informs us that when the time changes, we might get sleepy at 10:00 instead of 11:00, and explains why that happens. This is one sharp gal.

    November 5, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Mitcher

    Forget the clocks and just fire up the bong.

    November 5, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Isolationist

      Hard to sleep when you can't breath.

      November 5, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  28. Mitcher

    With a nice Kushy Indica strain of course.

    November 5, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. I love Daylight Saving Time!!

    I love switching time twice a year! Who the heck wants it to be dark at 7.32 PM on June 21 in New York City, rather than 8.32 PM? It's summer and therefore longer daylight to enjoy!

    November 5, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJinCVistaCA

      If you want to enjoy an extra hour of daylight each day, why not just change YOUR schedule to start and end around the actual daylight? So, in the summer, when the days are longer, you enjoy all the daylight hours you'd like.

      November 5, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
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      September 11, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
  30. I love Daylight Saving Time!!

    Only 2 states (Arizona & Hawaii) do not change clocks, which is stupid and silly. That's why it gets dark there early summertime while rest of us enjoy an additional hour of daylight. US, Canada, Europe, Northern Africa, parts of Middle East, parts of Australia and many other places switch times too !!

    November 5, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Isolationist

    Get some exercise. Go to sleep when you are tired. Get up when you are done sleeping.

    Nothing complicated about it. If there is something in your life that interferes with that get rid of it.

    November 5, 2011 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Scott

    I started taking a new liquid supplement called Sleep Formula 39 that's finally helped me make it through the night. You can bet I'll be on it tonight.

    November 5, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Isolationist

      Small doses of melatonin works pretty well. Like most things, too much has the opposite effect.

      November 5, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
  33. Greg693

    It must be nice. I've heard this lie for years about getting an extra hour of sleep when the clocks roll back.

    I have worked graveyard and weekends for years. I never get that extra hour of sleep. Instead, I get the joy of watching the clocks roll back knowing that I have an extra hour of work... Lucky me.

    November 5, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Seriously, people

    OK, why is there an article on how to deal with the night being one hour longer? If you work days, you get an extra hour of sleep–what's the issue there? And for those on shift work, you get stuck working an extra hour. Hopefully you at least make up for it in the spring when the clocks go forward and you cut an hour out of your shift while the daywalker types complain about losing sleep. (Through a fluke of luck, I've only been on shift work when the clocks roll forward.)

    November 5, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      Small problem with that. DST happens at night, not while you are working.

      November 5, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  35. anonymous

    Dr. Shives gives me the shivers with her illogical logic.

    I guess if it is always NOW then none of this hocus pocus bull about time does not really matter now, does it?

    November 5, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. anonymous

    CORRECTION – I guess if it is always NOW then all of this hocus pocus bull about time does not really matter now, does it?

    November 5, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hossein

      I was wondering if you ever creeidsond changing the structure of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

      September 14, 2012 at 00:53 | Report abuse |
  37. Daylight savings time

    DST is a bunch of bologna.....It needs to stop.....They are throwing off everyone's internal clock , twice a year, all in the name of productivity? Lies.

    November 5, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Cheryl Carter

    I still don't understand why this useless exercise is neccessary. The Russians have come to the conclusion that we can just leave the clocks alone and everything else will follow. What is wrong with us that we cling to this archaic practice.

    November 5, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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      September 13, 2012 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
  39. geenabeana

    I agree with those who say to get rid of DST already! We live in a world that is far different from the days when this might have been practical. We are going 24/7. This must benefit someone or something financially to keep it going, though they have adjusted it by a couple of months. I think it is more harmful to disrupt out patterns of daily living in order to supposedly "save time" somewhere. I think we would all function better in this country if we would just stop the craziness of changing time!

    November 5, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      It's done so that you have to use more electricity in the evenings. Only the power companies benefit from it.

      November 5, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
  40. Jim

    I totally agree with Cheryl...time to stop hitting ourselves in the head with a hammer and end this nonsense..

    November 5, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. If I had a penny for every stupid Republican I'd be rich!

    The joys of retirement mean the clock no longer has the same controlling influence it once did.

    November 5, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Panties


    November 5, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Skeptimist

    "Daylight Saving" is nonsense – we have long days in the summer and short ones in the winter. Fiddling with your clock has nothing to do with it. Before I retired I was lucky enough to work "flex hours" so I followed a solar schedule where I always went to work in the dark and came home In bright daylight. I thereby beat the traffic by 1-2 hours throughout the year. Then, when I retired I created my own custom calendar. My week now has one Sunday, six Saturdays and no clocks. I learned all this from observing my dog. She also taught me to turn around three times before going to sleep, which cured both my insomnia and apnea.

    November 5, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. amac

    The good doctor's advice about turning off the television and computer and allowing yourself some "non-stimulation time" before bed is well-advised. If anybody takes anything away from this article, I hope that is it.

    November 5, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Johnny

    If you're having trouble sleeping, try to get in a good moderate 45 minute workout once a week with cardio and nautilus and you will sleep much better the whole week.

    November 5, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skeptimist

      Or you could just try turning around three times before you lay down. Works for my dog & me.

      November 5, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
  46. Panties

    I suppose you can say that DST is useless. Speaking of useless, is it true that cats are totally useless and stupid and ignorant? Mine are.

    November 5, 2011 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. us1776

    Daylight Savings Time is a throwback to a bygone era.

    Hardly any of us are farmers any more. Our work does not revolve around the sun any longer.

    We need to have DST all year round now.


    November 5, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Panties

      Why do "We need to have DST all year round now", if it is from the bygone era and the farmers no longer revolve around the sun?

      November 5, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • LindaY

      DST has nothing to do with farmers. Farmers have always hated it. DST came about because of the first World War, when they needed to work later in the evening in munitions plants and doing war work. Factories didn't have bright interior lighting back then, but relied on big windows and skylights to provide light. Hence the clock change. It was abolished after WWI and put back into service in WWII, then left in place after WWII for the summer so baby boomers could play outside after supper.

      November 7, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse |
  48. drewzicle

    The best thing to do would be to change the clocks back 30 minutes and then leave them there halfway between the two.

    November 5, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Panties

      That is a good thought. I agree witchya?

      November 5, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse |
  49. mrs

    My husband puts me to sleep with his big "you know what". I suggest you sleep deprived people start doing the same... It works like a charm 🙂

    November 5, 2011 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Adam

    where's the advice? article fail.

    November 5, 2011 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • factChecker

      Here is her advice: "I actually recommend that you go to bed when you feel sleepy. .... For many people, if they push themselves to stay up, they then get the proverbial second wind and end up awake for hours"

      November 5, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
    • jason83

      go back and re-read (if you can) the article. She advises you to go to bed when you feel sleepy! Why is it that people have to have highlights from an article in bold printing? Today's technology just keeps making people more and more idiotic as time goes on.

      November 5, 2011 at 23:10 | Report abuse |
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