Sleep, the elixir

Oscar, my role model for avoiding insomnia

If Hamlet had lived longer, instead of saying “to sleep perchance to dream,” he might have said, “to lie in bed, perchance to sleep.” The latter happens to me more often than I’d like.

Sleep is underrated, despite the badge of pride worn by those who say they need little of it.  You know who I’m talking about: the guy who’s sending out work-related emails to his boss at one a.m.; the woman who sews children’s clothing between two and four a.m.; and the successful writer who advises wannabes to start work well before dawn if they ever hope to follow in his or her footsteps.

Here’s what we know about sleep.

*According to recent studies, we need to sleep because it allows “the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.”

*The less you partake of it, the faster you age.

*Lack of sleep affects glucose metabolism and the production of certain hormones. Translate this to mean, among other things, it may speed up the “onset of diabetes, hypertension and memory loss.”

*”Approximately 100,000 automobile crashes each year result from drivers who were ‘asleep at the wheel.'”

*Even going without an hour of sleep each night leads to a sleep deficit, which takes its toll on “daytime performance, thinking and mood.”

*Just because you get less sleep when you’re older, doesn’t mean you need less.

*The change from standard time to daylight savings time and back, “throws off our body clocks by up to four weeks.”

*”One of the most recent and compelling explanations for why we sleep is based on findings that sleep is correlated to changes in the structure and organization of the brain.”

I think about sleep a lot because I don’t get enough. I fall asleep faster now than I did during my first year of retirement. Apparently, back then my brain couldn’t break the habit of getting psyched up to tackle the world on the next day. But now I often wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake. During the days following sleeplessness I feel listless and glum. I have to push myself to do what I need to do. Compare this to days after I sleep well, when I feel joyful, glad to be alive, and alert to the sights, sounds and people around me. I have a plan for the summer, besides finishing the first draft of my novel: to stretch and meditate at night, cut back on caffeine during the day, and get plenty of exercise, all to promote that blessed elixir called sleep.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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2 Responses to Sleep, the elixir

  1. Sharon says:

    Perhaps you might try the siesta approach during the day and get an hour or so of sleep mid-day if you don’t sleep well through the night. It really is not immoral to sleep during the day — really.

  2. Sylvia Soholt says:

    I’m exhausted from trying to skim the first reference on “what we know about sleep,” so I’m going to bed early.

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