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
- Muffin top waistline
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.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Earthquake!