As I move through my 60s – somewhat bemused by my imminent ageing – I notice that my sleep patterns are changing.
Gone are the days when I needed an alarm clock to wake me up for work at 7 am and then struggled not to fall back into a deep sleep. Or those far away times when I could surface on a weekend, glance at the clock and just turn over and doze for hours.
Then came the years of raising babies and children when uninterrupted sleep became something I craved for. Many years on and I find my nights are disturbed not by crying offspring. Instead, they are punctuated by trips to the bathroom or needing a drink of water (probably not helping the bathroom jaunts).
Or I could need painkillers for something or other, or just to lie there for hours worrying about ridiculous things that will probably never happen.
Most nights I see every hour come and go, and I yearn to sleep soundly until at least 6 am. I have no problem falling asleep – it is all the waking up that is wearing me out.
To get up and make tea, wander the house, disturb the dogs (and husband), read my Kindle or listen to music, or to just try and lie still and fall back to sleep – that is the quandary I, and so many of us, face in the dark hours.
Speaking to friends, I find I am not alone, and I am considering setting up a Facebook Page called ‘The 4am Club.’ Maybe there already is one?
All of us wide awake 60-somethings could connect and swap stories and maybe help each other to fall back to sleep. If I wasn’t so tired I would get onto it straight away.
On the back of all this nocturnal activity is the desperate need to nap in the afternoon. Given any sort of opportunity, I will fall asleep – if I am in a chair, maybe I will snatch just 5 or 10 minutes, but if I indulge myself and lie on my bed, I can wave goodbye to a good half an hour.
Not a problem if I am home, but when I venture out to an afternoon meeting or activity then falling asleep during a talk or performance is embarrassing. Car, bus and train journeys are an open invitation to shut my eyes for a while, unless of course I am the driver, in which case an open window does the trick and keeps me awake.
Despite a riveting talk at my local WI recently, I fought against my eyelids drooping and began to realise why sleep deprivation, as a form of torture, is so successful. It’s almost painful trying to stay awake.
For me sleeping pills are not an option as I am terrified of addiction. Herbal varieties don’t do anything for me. I have tried acupuncture, I regularly practice yoga and I exercise every day so I guess I need to just go with it.
I did read an interesting article recently that explained how our sleep patterns have changed over the years – apparently, many moons ago, it was accepted to wake up during the night after a first ‘deep sleep.’
Then you would have a period of wakefulness when people got up and busied themselves with household chores before going back to bed for a few more hours of shut eye.
This was known as ‘segmented sleep,’ and there are many articles on the web that you can read to find out more. The BBC explains it in “The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep.”
I don’t think going back in time would work for me, and I am sure my husband wouldn’t appreciate me hoovering at 2 am. So, I shall have to accept the changes and be thankful that I have the time for the odd cat nap.
How do you cope with sleepless nights? Do you ever take mid-afternoon naps? Have you found that your sleeping habits have changed as you have got older? Please share your experiences below!
Tags How to Sleep Better