By Joe Rector
Those of us who are old enough know the effects of age on our lives. From our endurance during yardwork or hiking to walking into a room and trying to remember what our purpose for doing so is, we find that the adding years deplete our energy and memory. Aging also changes sleep requirements.
When I was a child, I hated to go to bed. Something on television always seemed to be calling me. On weekends, our parents sometimes allowed us to stay up passed our bed times, but we still had to crawl out of the sack to get ready for church the next morning. Only after a long, hard day of playing or during an illness did I give into sleep at an early hour.
During my high school and college years, I could survive with little sleep. Late nights were normal, and the thought of going to bed before 11:00 p.m. was embarrassing. Curfew was midnight during high school, but that didn’t mean I went to bed. Instead, I watched television until the channels went off the air, or I’d listen to music. If a friend spent the night, we’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning to talk and laugh about all sorts of topics.
In college, I put in plenty of late nights. Studying was always easier after most of the residents in the dorm had turned in for the night. I had to put in the work to make up for the lack of effort I gave during high school. During final exams, I pulled “all-nighters.” I could trick my body into believing that I’d slept enough by lying down for half an hour and setting the alarm to ring every ten minutes.
Back in that time, I could stay up all night, but I made up for it the next day. On more than one occasion, I’d crawl out of the bed around noon. The rest of the day was little more than a fog as my internal clock went haywire.
I even could adjust my sleeping when the children were little. Crying babies and sick toddlers destroyed sleep-filled nights. I arrived home late from attending high school football, basketball, and baseball games in support of some of my students, but still managed to rise the next mornings on the way to school or for other activities.
These days, sleep is on my mind. I look forward to going to bed but have no good feelings about getting up. Staying up late is replaced with shamefully early ends of the days. My internal clock still rings between 6:00-6:30 each morning. For some reason, I fatigue early in the evening and find myself ignoring favorite programs in favor of lying in the bed. The television plays on even though I have fallen asleep hours earlier. Of course, sleeping through the night doesn’t happen…ever. Aches and pains in joints and trips to the bathroom take turns awakening me at least half a dozen times in an eight-hour period.
Someone once told me that I would require less sleep as I grew older. I’m still waiting for that to begin. Even if I don’t make it to bed early, I fall asleep in my recliner. The only good thing about that is my wife Amy and the dog consistently fall into a state of unconsciousness long before I do. Maybe when we both no longer work, we’ll be able to stay up like we used to. For now, I’ll just snooze early and often.