My wife, Muri, loves sleep. You can see it. When she’s sleeping she has a blissful expression, the corners of her mouth turned up slightly in a smile. She sleeps like a cat, totally luxuriating in the experience. I, on the other hand, don’t like to sleep. It seems like a waste of time when there are things to do and even if there’s nothing to do, I’d rather do it awake. Early morning and late evening seem to be my most productive times … isn’t that the purpose of life, to be productive? No? During my working-full-time years, I could say, I have to work all day, so I need my mornings and evenings for myself. I’m semi-retired and nothing’s changed. I seem to get a second wind at about 9:30 pm and do most of my blogging between then and midnight. Periodically, I vow to get to bed earlier or try to go back to sleep in the morning but it never lasts. Lately, though, I’m exhausted mid-afternoon. Some days, I can fight my way through it, caffeinate myself and stay busy. Others, I know … I’m going to nap. I tell Muri, I think I need to nap, settle into my recliner, read a bit or play a bit of Mole Word, then I’m out. REALLY out. I’m my Dad, asleep in his recliner, book in lap or TV on. I don’t like it one bit and I don’t like waking up groggy, having to give up another half hour of my day trying to get productive again. I know, human being not human doing. Sorry, Psychology Today. This need to nap makes me feel old. Wait. I am old! The forty-year old inside my head keeps forgetting that.
We need sleep to function properly, something our pedal-to-the-metal, coffee gulping, energy drink guzzling society tends to forget. We need, I’m told, 7-8 hours of sleep. 6 hours or less triples your risk of a car accident. Yikes. Getting enough sleep reduces stress and increases productivity (yes, but does it increase it enough to offset the time spent sleeping? Did you experts think of that?). And the benefits of a power nap in the afternoon are well-documented, although there’s some debate on just how long that nap should be. Some say 15 minutes to a half hour to avoid the long groggy period that deep sleep brings, while others say an hour of deep sleep brings sufficient benefits to put up with the grogginess. But what about seniors? It turns out, according to the WebMD Sleep Disorders Health Center, that seniors don’t need more sleep, they need a different kind of sleep. As adults age, WebMD tells me, advanced sleep phase syndrome sets in, causing the body’s internal clock to adjust to earlier bed and wakeup times. But some seniors continue to stay up late, as they did in their younger years. Sleep deprivation is often the result. Hello, Older Eyes. And just in case I’m worried that napping will make it harder for me to sleep at night, a report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that napping can improve daytime functioning in older people without interfering with nighttime sleep, particularly if I exercise, which I’m trying to do these days. No downside. Except for that lost time.
In case you wonder, according to seniorjournal.com, 34% of U.S. adults say yes when asked if they’ve taken a nap in the last 24 hours, with 52% of men and women over 80 answering yes. The next nappingest group, interestingly, is 50+ men, 41% of whom nap. So, it’s 3:30 Wednesday afternoon and I’m in my recliner, finishing up this post. My eyelids are getting heavy. Sometimes an older guy just has to do what he has to do. Be back in 30 minutes. I’m joining the 41%.