Saturday, February 21, 2009


Remember sleep? When we were young, it was so easy, we never gave it a second thought. We'd sleep late, stay up late, go without sleep for 24 hours, make it up the next day. We never worried about it. Sleep was just something that interrupted all the other things in life.

When you get older, you begin to appreciate sleep. For many years I considered sleep a waste of time - time when I could be more productive, squeezing more things into a busy day. Through my 30s and 40s I slept maybe 5 or 6 hours a night. I developed a habit of getting up very early, getting a lot done before work, and then staying up late for fun and entertainment. That getting up early habit is hard to break.

I've begun to realize I have needed more sleep than I've been getting. But now I'm at an age when sleep does not come easily and is often restless and interrupted. So I've made a point of trying to allow the time needed just for sleep. Though my old habit of thinking it a waste of time creeps in, my sensible self insists on at least trying.

This week, twice, I was so tired in the evening, I went to bed before 8, read a little and then fell asleep, only to be awakened in a half hour by a call soliciting donations or sales. These calls are happening more and more in the late evening. There is no way to stop them except to turn off the phone. And then no-one can reach you, even for an emergency. But once awake, I find I have to get up and do something before I can become tired enough to sleep again.

One thing I learned from my stint on graveyard shift earlier this year, is that you have to set aside the time and make the environment right if you want to get the sleep you need. I was very successful with that as I was so worried I might fall asleep driving home after an all night shift. So I know how to do this. I have begun turning off the alarm on the weekends and sleeping until I wake up. On weekdays, I have the alarm set an hour later than before, and only get up very early if I wake up on my own (which is often). If I'm tired at night, no matter the time, I just go to bed -- one of the advantages of living alone. If I wake up too early, I try to just relax and not think about my list of things to do - yet.

Many people of my age have sleep issues. I've come to realize it's as important a consideration for health as diet and exercise. This year I'm making a concerted effort to get the sleep my body wants. I'm doing better, though I don't know if you can ever make up for a couple of decades of sleep deprivation.

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