Senior Column: Getting my post-retirement beauty sleep

I guess that I am like a number of older folks out there who sometimes have trouble sleeping. For me it is an affliction that has come with retirement.

Back when I was working there was never any problem falling asleep after a busy day and a big meal. Sleep came and was uninterrupted until that alarm sounded at 6 a.m. to start the new day. A routine that most of us are very familiar with.

But now without a schedule I can stay up as late as I want or go to bed as early as I see fit. And that’s where my problem begins. I just go to sleep too early. I can barely stay awake after “Jeopardy.”And then I awaken at 3 or 4 in the morning. Since there are not any livestock to take care of, I usually turn on the TV.

From the commercials that appear, it’s very clear that there are many of us awake in these wee hours. The ads are for burial insurance, adult diapers, special pillows and even pills to help you sleep. So what should I do?

It’s not that I am not getting enough sleep. Eight p.m. to 3 a.m. is seven hours. Nine p.m. to 4 a.m. is also seven hours. And seven is a very respectable good night’s sleep. Or one could go for the eight hours of snooze time and sleep from nine p.m. to five am. Still awakening early enough to milk the cows. 

I have decided to embark on a plan to change my retirement body clock. If I could get to 11 p.m., I’d still get enough sleep if I woke up at 6 or 7 a.m. I remember my 96-year-old mother telling me that she always stayed awake to see the 11 o’clock news. I knew that I could call her up until then and it would not be a surprise.

Sometimes I get phone calls at nine or ten and I get shocked out of bed. The callers can’t understand why I seem so groggy. Well, if you fall asleep at eight, you are really into sleep by 10 p.m.

I know that if I want to change my sleep patterns, it’s going to take some time and adherence to a careful schedule. What I do know is that I must push my dinner time to an hour or two later. Right now I dine at around 6 p.m. This comes from some 40 years of eating in boarding school dining halls. That was when time after dinner was filled with obligations that lasted until 10 or 11 p.m. Being retired, I have no obligations after dinner so I get sleepy. So I am going to plan my next week with dinner at seven followed by an evening activity. Something active, not passive. Watching TV or even reading puts me to sleep. I am putting together a list of projects that will take about two hours in an evening. Something that can get me to 10 o’clock.

First on my project list is to work on a grandfather clock that belonged to my parents. I need to take time to get the chimes and the gears to work.

Another project is to spend time organizing the space in my basement. Some stuff has to be chucked, other items given away and some pieces set up to be useful. 

As you can tell, I have thought this through a bit and hope to get in the groove of staying awake and alert until eleven. But it has to become a habit. And the habit of getting up at three or four a.m. is going to be hard to break. 

I will have a report in next week’s column about how breaking this habit is working.

On another subject, I just learned from Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli that Dr. Heath M. Gutterman will begin a podiatry practice on the Island on Feb. 12. Initially he will be making visits to homebound Islanders. He plans to visit eight to twelve patients on Feb. 12. If you are homebound and would like to be seen by Dr. Gutterman, call the office in Southampton. He is an associate of Dr. Karen Langone. The number is 631-287-1818.