A Young Man's Poem
Valentine's Day, Social Security and Darlene Costner

Another Minor Affliction of Age

God knows big-time health issues commonly accompany old age – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, hypertension, Parkinson's and much more. According to one source, 88 percent of people older than 65 have at least one chronic disease.

So, every day of my life I am grateful (knocking wood loudly as I type this) that I have so far escaped these and other serious health problems.

But that doesn't mean I gracefully accept the minor afflictions of age; there is a reason my alter ego on this blog is named Crabby Old Lady. Among these irritations are:

  • Whiskers that repeatedly appear on my chin
  • Hair disappearing from where I want it to remain
  • Regular eruption of new toad spots
  • Eye floaters
  • Tinnitis
  • Muffin top waistline
  • Incontinence
  • Cataracts

The only one I have resolved is incontinence. Losing 20 pounds fixed that (but not, as one might think, the muffin top). And if the cataracts in both eyes continue to grow at their current glacial pace, it will be some years before I need the surgery.

Which is good news in the overall scheme of elder health. But certainly you realize that not all is hunky dory chez Bennett and of course, there is something I'm here today to bitch about.

I have another affliction that has been getting worse over the past six to eight or maybe even 10 years and just recently, I accidentally discovered that it has a name and that scientists spend time and money researching it: ASPD or Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder.

I am always suspicious of new disorder and syndrome acronyms. All too often, it seems, the medical establishment is eager to turn aspects of ordinary life or minor disturbances into pathologies. But in this case, the medical literature perfectly matches my experience and Wikipedia has a good, succinct description:

”...a condition in which patients feel very sleepy and go to bed early in the evening (e.g. 6:00–8:00PM) and wake up very early in the morning (e.g. around 3:00AM).”

Although I try mightily to fight off the sandman (I must be his first stop each night), it is almost impossible to stay awake much past about 7:30PM. And most nights, too, I wake around midnight or 1AM not because I've had enough sleep, but because the book I was reading is weighing down my chest or the television is flickering at me with a godawful infomercial.

Sometimes I can fall back asleep right away but just as often I'm awake for an hour or two until sleep returns and then I reawaken at my “normal” time of 4AM.

An attribute of the disorder is that even if one manages to postpone sleep several hours in the evening, you still waken at your usual ungodly early hour so sometimes I stumble through the day in a sleep-deprived stupor.

Because I can't stay awake for TV shows I like, I record them. It might be kinda funny if it were not so pathetic that in trying to watch in the early evening, I fall asleep halfway through. Sometimes it takes three or four viewings before I make all the way to the end of a program.

When I have houseguests, I can usually push myself to stay awake until a near-normal bedtime for the first couple of evenings but I then revert to early bed. The sleepiness is irresistible. I haven't been to an evening movie in years because there is no point. It doesn't matter how compelling the film is, I fall asleep partway through.

Researchers say that ASPD is a rare disorder affecting hardly more than one percent of the population most of whom are elders. There is a genetic link, it tends to run in families (I don't recall any of my relatives going to bed in the early evening) and there is no treatment that can be said to work.

Bright light therapy might help some and chronotherapy (gradually moving one's bedtime later each day in tiny increments). Both have had limited if any long-term success so I don't try because it's not a serious condition unless you have a compelling reason to be up late.

In my case, it is a continuing annoyance because when I am most energetic (the first three or four hours of “my day”), there isn't much I can get done away from home and I don't think the neighbors would appreciate the vacuum cleaner at those hours.

Since nothing can be done about ASPD and it doesn't cause serious difficulties, none of this matters but I like having an explanation now and knowing that it isn't anything to be concerned about in terms of health.

(An opposite condition, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPS), has also been identified.)

If you are curious to know more, here are some webpages that expand on what I've told you today.

American Sleep Association
National Institutes of Health
University of California, San Diego [pdf]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Earthquake!


Here's some of mine.

Increased flatulence: It embarrasses me sometimes to use a public restroom.

Joint pain: Getting up after sitting. Opening jars. Turning over in bed.

Injuries: Easier to pull a muscle during sudden movements, or unknown causes.

I don't think it's a "syndrome", but a return to the natural sleep pattern that electric lights have disrupted. Look into segmented sleep and learn to use that time productively.


Yup, I too have all of the above but not the sleep disorders. I do have Advanced Nap Disorder...that compelling call of the nods that happen the moment you sit down at the computer after lunch. Now that is a true Elder Annoyance which, perhaps, is connected to Windows Annoyances.

I have the exact same sleep pattern. It isn't usually a problem for me to get back to sleep but sometimes I'm awake for an hour or two. The early morning hours are my favorite time of the day, too!

Regarding jonathan peterson's notation on segmented sleep, I have written about that here in the past and find it a fascinating idea although there is no indication (yet) that it was ever the normal human sleep pattern.

What I experience now is not the same thing. One big difference is that when I go to sleep without a book or watching a TV show, I don't waken in the night (except maybe to pee). I sleep a full seven hours or so.

Both of these sleep phenomena are interesting but not the same.

If I were a scientist (which I am not), I might rename it ECSL (East Coast Sleep Lag). After living a lifetime on East Coast time it is just an inappropriate, stubborn time zone/jet lag maladjustment. Totally plausible methinks...

My grandfather smoked his pipe,
my dad ate radishes and I liked
a bowl of ice cream, all of us up and moving at 3 A.M...I thought it was a family thing.

Good morning Ronni (at least here in NW Washington). I recently found your Blog and love it!!! I am turning 70 years old on Feb 22nd! It doesn't really seem possible, although my body has warned me I'm getting old. The ages of my children also doesn't seem real.

I found the annoying afflictions article particular funny. Felt great to laugh...and think..."i'm not the only one..

Whiskers that repeatedly appear on my chin
Hair disappearing from where I want it to remain
Regular eruption of new toad spots
Eye floaters
Muffin top waistline

Cataracts can be far more than a minor affliction. When I last renewed my driver's license, I was told that next time I wouldn't be able to pass the eye exam.

And my husband was told that he wouldn't be able to pass the medical exam to renew his pilot's license.

Both of us have since had cataract surgery. My first was last week, the second yesterday. The new lens correct my vision (poor since birth), so that I can see better than I ever have.

I have found recently that pulmonologists in this metropolitan area have all become sleep disorder specialists. It seems to me if you go in with a hangnail, they recommend a sleep study. The result is that I am now sleeping with the mask/CPAP machine, very annoying. So far, it hasn't helped any of my complaints.

Cataracts are easily fixed these days, but I needed glaucoma surgery at the same time, so my eyes are my ongoing most serious health concern. The big floaters I've developed since the surgery are really annoying (never had them before).

My sympathy on the sleep problem. I've always heard sleep problems are common among seniors and I'm very grateful to have been spared so far. I wouldn't be fit company for myself or anyone else without a good night's sleep.

I try to be grateful for the undeservedly good health I've enjoyed to date.

Since well more than 95 percent of cataract surgery is as easy and successful as Madeleine Kolb indicates hers has been, and that has been so for many friends and acquaintances of mine over many years and such is confirmed by research and my physician and further, the surgery is covered by Medicare when the cataracts have developed to a certain point, I DO consider them to be a minor difficulty particularly when compared to the serious health issues I mention at the top of this post.

Nobody dies of cataracts.

Oh my
I did not know this was a disorder. I have just always loved getting up early and going to bed early.
Now up in bed by 7:00
Up by 4:00 to 4:30
and always a snack of yogurt and banana about 1:00 AM :)

Although I refuse to take heavy-duty pain meds (except for post-surgeries) that are always being offered to me by doctors for my rheumatoid arthritis. I did decide a few years ago that I hadn't slept for 26 years (since early menopause) and that was enough of that foolishness. I take sleeping pills when I need them and sleep through the night like a baby. Now I have another sleep aid--my new forever kitty who loves when it is our bedtime and doesn't stir from my side for 7-8 hours.

Hmm. I have the opposite sleep pattern. I'm a night person -- always have been, and when I was out disco or ballroom dancing, that kind of schedule worked just fine. Luckily, my boss knew that even though I was at my desk by 9, I wasn't much good until after 10. But at almost 73 (with both dancing and a job behind me), I wind up staying up and watching TV until after midnight. Then I wake up at 3 am (that seems to be a pattern across the board, here), check my mail and the latest news on my bedside Iphone, finally fall back to sleep in an hour or so, and then sleep until 11 -- just in time for brunch. I know that more exercise is supposed to help. My doctor has suggested a sleep study; I wonder what that could possibly tell them. BTW, I just blogged about another annoyance of aging: Where Did My Neck Go?

Tinnitus, after an ear infecton, has been with me in varying degrees now for about 2 months. I've studied it and I am thankful that mine is minor, and variable (giving me hope that it might simply go away). I've researched it and I am nearly convinced that Van Gogh must have cut his ear off due to being tormented by Tinnitus. One can go to the American Tinnitus Association web page and listen to examples of the different frequencies that sufferers experience, some or many, non stop 24/7. I think Tinnitus can be horrible, absolutely horrible to endure (until or unless one accepts and adusts to it--even tune it out, and other self help techniques to learn to deal with it). The good news is that it is not life threatening. Yes, it's just one of a few issues that have cropped up since about the age of 50.

Glad to hear about the successful cataract surgeries since I'm scheduled for my first on February 28th! Other than that, I'm faring pretty well. As far as sleep, I've always been a night owl. It's actually easier now that I don't have to get up at 5:00 AM to avoid rush hour gridlock on the freeway. I watch TV/read until about 1:00 AM, then sleep 'til our cats let me know they want food about 5:00, then it's back to sleep until 8:30 or 9:00. So far, it seems to be working for me.

There is another annoyance for 35% of women past menopause (like me). For us, the hot flashes and night sweats remain for the rest of our lives. My mother warned me, but now I'm living with it at 69. One Tylenol/PM is half the normal dose and taking it lets me sleep through the night instead of waking up and throwing the covers on the floor

Interesting that Tylenol/PM has been mentioned. I, too, am sort of a night person. I can stay up until 11 PM or even midnight and still be ready to start my day around 5:30 AM or 6 AM . But the problem is that without the Tylenol/PM combination, I usually only sleep for two hours at a time. And in many instances, when I do wake after those two or three hours - I am fully awake and I usually either read or go to the computer. But shortly thereafter I do get tired and return to bed. So only when I feel that I definitely need those 5-6 hours of total rest, do I turn to the Tylenol/PM. More times than not, this does the trick and for the most part I enjoy the 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep this combination provides me with to feel refreshed in the morning.

By the way - isn't getting old (I am going to be 73 this year)- so much fun! But it sure beats the alternative.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)