We’re deep into what my old neighbor Jamelle used to call the “dark times,” winter days that become winter nights by late afternoon and winter mornings that don’t wake me up until after 8 a.m. As a result, I find myself getting about nine hours of sleep every night, which I’ve long understood to have salutary health benefits.
Until now. Last week, a team of researchers from the University of Sydney released the results of a study suggesting that too much sleep could shorten your lifespan. Well, that and too little exercise. And too much sitting. And too much drinking and smoking. Oh, yeah, and too little sleep.
Why Seniors Have Difficulties Sleeping
OK, so the alarms are fading into the distance. (Don’t you love science?) But it got me thinking about the many ways our sleep patterns tend to change once we take up permanent residence in Geezerville. Insomnia, for instance, becomes more common, as does sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, according to Jennifer Dixon in this WebMD piece. Assorted pains from arthritis can also keep geezers awake. And we’re more likely to need to get up to visit the bathroom at night than in our younger days.
We also tend to ignore our sleep needs as we get older, says Dixon. “As adults age, advanced sleep phase syndrome sets in, causing the body’s internal clock to adjust to earlier bed and waking times,” she explains. “But some seniors continue to stay up late, as they did in their younger years. Sleep deprivation is often the result.”
That doesn’t seem to be my problem these days. I’m typically hitting the hay by 11 and getting up with the sun — which these days doesn’t make an appearance until around 8. So I’m thinking this is mostly about my brain shutting down my melatonin supply as soon as it detects morning light.
In any case, I seem to be getting plenty of sleep these days. Which may or may not be a problem.