Crabby Old Lady on a Dumb Medical “Fact” of the Day
A TGB Classic: Recurring Pleasures

Living the Early Bird Specials Time Table

EDITORIAL NOTE: On yesterday's post, the link to The Elder Storytelling Place was coded wrong (my bad) and brought up a blank page. Here's a link to Marc Leavitt's poem, On Money, that does work.

Lately I have been facing dealing with an impediment to relationships with friends and neighbors that I had not imagined when I was younger - in fact, not even five years ago. The problem is lack of energy or, more precisely, energy at the wrong times of day.

(Before any of you go diagnosing me – and I am pretty sure none of you are Dr. House - I am a healthy 72-year-old with nothing more to plague me than a few of the usual minor ailments of age. Most of mine are of the chin whiskers variety.)

My energy problem is that mine no longer fits with how the rest of the world operates.

Most people function optimally from about 9AM to 5PM with a winding down toward relaxation in the evening. I, however, run out of steam before midday. Here is the reason:

Back in February, I told you about a new-ish affliction called ASPD or advanced sleep phase disorder.

Although I object to the medical establishment assigning the status of disorder or syndrome to difficulties almost as minor as chin whiskers (and this IS one of them), their description of ASPD precisely fits me:

”...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).”

Close enough: I wake most days between 3:30AM and 4AM and sleep overtakes me with little or no recourse by 7:30PM or 8PM. On rare occasions I can resist the call to the arms of Morpheus if I have plans for dinner with friends. But I cannot do that two evenings in a row and I usually turn down last-minute evening invitations knowing that I cannot prepare both mentally and physically for them.

It's no fun falling asleep in the soup but in my wake/sleep cycle, your 9PM or 10PM is my 6PM or 7PM.

Morning meetings can be a problem too because if I don't finish writing the next day's blog post by about 1PM, it is agony to get my brain well enough in gear later in the afternoon to finish (as is happening at this moment because two meetings used up my Tuesday morning).

Further, when I am forced to stay at a meeting past 2:30PM or so it is soon apparent that although I understand individual words other people are saying, I'm not absorbing much of the meaning and my notes consist of one word here, another there without anything to help me make sense of the point later on.

This is as it was when I was still employed on the occasions when work ran into the evenings – I was just as stupid at 7PM or 8PM and later in those days as I am now by 3PM.

The only reason I can volunteer on my city's 50+ Advisory Board is that it meets at 8:30AM instead of in the evening as all other advisory boards do. On the rare occasions I have attended city council meetings that begin at 7PM, it's a waste of time – I spend the two hours trying to fight off sleep and so learn nothing.

For some reason, I've been shy to explain to people the reason I need to leave whatever we're doing by 2:30PM. I suppose I'll get to it soon enough.

I wouldn't mind the time differential if it were not so hard to live with the pressure to cram everything I need to do each day into the tiny time frame of five hours. I lose a lot of time because I doubt the neighbors would appreciate the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner or picture hanging at 5AM and stores don't open until 8AM or 9AM.

So this ASPD stuff is a pain in the ass but I have gained one small thing from it: an understanding of those ancient jokes about old people who are regulars at Denny's early bird special.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Swift: Begging for Mercy


Menopause brought sleep changes for me. After that point I only needed four or five hours of sleep to be refreshed.

Ronni, I don't think what you have is a disorder, but normal human variance. My sisters are up at all hours. One of my bro-in-laws hits the bed at 7pm.

Can you nap? I find I fall asleep at the computer or over a book after lunch. If I do this, I feel beaten up. I can nap laying down tho, and I have begun doing that.

I too often fall asleep after lunch, but a lot that has to do what I eaten and what I need to do the afternoon. Frankly, I would be better off if I didn't eat lunch at all.

When a "disorder" interferes with life like that, I'd think exploring diet, activity, meds, would be worth the time. There was something in today's paper about people keeping diaries for their health, so that one person realized he wasn't eating enough protein, another that what seemed like a lot of exercise really wasn't,etc. And then there are food sensitivities that affect energy. Just a thought - life is too short to spend it at odds with what you want to do.

I used to, and sometimes still do, have that late afternoon overpowering need to sleep and napping doesn't work for me. I end up really sleeping and, as you said Ronni, getting myself on a very unfriendly schedule. Solution: for me it has been to do something mind-engaging but not demanding. If I start surfing the net or playing on-line games like, Bridge, Scrabble, or Lumosity it keeps me awake until my brain is ready to function again. Works for me. Hope you find something or adapt to your new sleep pattern in a way that works for you.

Try resetting your clock with a short nap when you can. My brother swears by 20 minutes (no longer)any time mid-day.

And don't let them label it a disorder - we all have different rhythms and they change every once in a while.

My sleep pattern is most maddening. Actually I have 2 or 3 sleep patterns so I am not even consistent. I do fall asleep when my head hits the pillow only to waken 3 hours later. If I can't go back to sleep after an hour of tossing and turning I get up, make a cup of hot chocolate (don't lecture), eat some toast, check my e-mail and stay up for 3 or 4 hours before feeling sleepy again. At that time I return to bed for another 2-3 hours sleep.

Other nights I crash and sleep for a full 8 hours without waking. I have strange dreams on those nights.

Yet other nights I fall asleep in the middle of my favorite TV show and when I go to bed I am sometimes unable to go right to sleep.

In other words, my sleep pattern is, as they say, all over the map. I try to avoid morning appointments because I usually have a 'second sleep' night before one of those days and I am always groggy after a night like that. It is most frustrating to schedule anything because I never know whether I will be up to it or not.

My energy level is never high at any time of the day, but especially in the afternoon.

The last couple of months I've been waking around 4am. But I don't go to bed early. I'm usually up until 11pm or so. What has happened is the period of sleepiness from 2pm to 3pm I used to have (lifelong) has become 3pm to 6 or 7pm.

Dinners out are torture and I like to eat with others so it can be tricky not to fall asleep in my soup. I am trying napping around 4pm for an hour with an alarm to keep it to an hour. This is what my Dad did lifelong but he didn't need the alarm. I don't know if a planned nap would help you or me but that's what I'm trying.

My energy level is low (I do have some medical conditions)but since I am down to only 5 hours of sleep I think I'm doing pretty well. Those,some medical things are energy suckers and disturb people's sleep as well.

I think some of it is what happens as we age, with variations as we are all a little different. Is it a medical condition like sleep apnea? I'm not so sure of that. Maybe it's just the price for living past 70. Keep on keeping on Ronni. Hope you and I find a solution.

Some with this problem have had B12 or Vit D deficiencies. Hope you've had them checked. I agree with the others who believe this is probably not a "condition", but something that happens as we age. Hang in there. Dee

So much of this describes me.
But then
always an early riser
and early to bed.
The big differance now is with Sjogrens the last few years and now Lupus - I do not have the energy as in the past, not much appetite and a lot of nights do not sleep like in the past. But pleased that up to 75 I was going strong. So many younger then me are experiencing what is happening now to me...

I am unable to stay asleep some nights until three or four in the morning. It throws off my entire day and is becoming much more frequent. Very frustrating.

Stay away from doctors! One of the advantages of getting older is that we are no longer tied to the clock! I often go to bed early and love the quiet early morning hours.

The medical community these days hangs a label on everything, partly because a name is a communication shortcut for a given set of symptoms. Such labels are also a marketing tool for pharmaceutical companies. Symptom A, B, and C are now called "X syndrome," and you can bet there will soon be a new drug to treat it.

Far too often these "syndromes" and "disorders" are normal, natural things that have always existed (such as irregular sleep patterns or shorter attention spans in seniors). But now that someone has hung a label on them, patients will worry about having them, doctors can charge for treating them, drug companies can market cures for them, etc.

That said, I have zero patience with anything or anyone that interferes with my sleep and having a official name for it wouldn't make me feel one bit better. Hope you find a solution soon.

My Clyde Cat takes a flying leap onto my body around 7 a.m. He is ready for his breakfast! Sometimes he lets me sleep till 8 or 8:30....

I go to bed at 11:30 p.m. Sometimes I nap about an hour between 1-3.

Playing music for about 1.5 hours every afternoon from 3:30 till 5 p.m. for our local Happy Hour is a commitment that is solid.

At 82 this is a good schedule that works for me quit well...
Yes, I too "nod-off" watching TV or reading... That is okay
as long as I sleep those 7.5 to 8.5 hours each night!
When I nap, Clyde is always on me, next to me, or in the same area...

Well, it's kind of comforting to read all of the above, since I can't seem to fall asleep until after 3 am and then sleep until 11 am. I don't like missing half the day, but I don't want to take any pills, either. I have had a total check-up, take a multi-vitamin/mineral every day, and have tried music and subliminal messages. Nothing affects my crazy sleep pattern. It doesn't affect anyone else's life, so I guess I'll just go with it.

Ronni, you have my sympathies but also admiration for continuing to meet "deadlines," even self-imposed ones.

I no longer play well with deadlines.

I am early to bed, but I spend an hour or so reading. Attempting to go to sleep immediately after watching TV or doing anything on my computer ensures that I won't go to sleep.

So will falling asleep in front of the TV. I invariably wake up and can't go back to sleep.

My sleep pattern is drifting toward Ronni's but not there yet. I wake early (5:30 am) easily. I am happy going to bed around 10pm +/-. But what gets me is that I am "not really good for anything" after about 7pm. If there's a reason to start calling myself retired rather than sporadically employed, it is this: when you do political consulting, you have to be able to do evening work and meetings and I seem to be losing this capacity.

I have had insomnia my entire adult life. I have always said 2 a.m. till 10 a.m. is ideal for me, but life had a way of interfering with that preference (babies, kids, jobs, etc.) I have taken sleeping pills for years and been okay with it at my age. Well, four months ago I adopted a shelter kitty, as some of you know if you read my essay "My Forever Amber."
Haven't needed a sleeping pill since!!!!!!!Plus, I often crawl into bed with her for a long afternoon nap, which doesn't interfere at all with the 8 hours at night.
How lucky am I? Or maybe I should say "blessed."

Sleep issues aside for a moment, so glad to read Lyn's post above (I missed her essay but will look it up). Another shelter kitty has found a loving home--Y-a-ay!! I'm a volunteer adoption counselor for a no-kill shelter in the Seattle area and there are far too many beautiful, affectionate cats waiting to be adopted.

Speaking of cats, one of ours is a very spoiled girl. She likes breakfast and play/pet time at about 3:00 A.M., and is very persistent. So I get up, feed both kitties, hit the computer for an hour or two, then it's back to sleep until about 9:00 AM. My husband and I usually watch the late news and then I read until 1:00 AM. It's a weird schedule but works out to about 6-7 hours of sleep overall which seems to be O.K.

I've always been a high-energy person, which is one reason (money being another) why I'm still working at 76. I'm contemplating full retirement soon for a variety of reasons, and trying to make that decision DOES keep me up at night!

Wow - You seem to have struck a chord. I am getting up earlier and earlier, myself, but until this a.m. I've been liking it because I have wonderful private time when I'm alert and productive. However, today, I arose at 4 - and started to get doncerned - 4 is way too early. I am particularly worried because my cousin is driving in from NYC to meet me for lunch and I am afraid that I will collapse. In general, my solution has been napping. Although I still seem to need more, not less sleep as I get older. Maybe I have sleep apnea. That seems to be the condition of choice these days for unsatisfying sleep leading to tired days. One more doctor? I've been putting it off.

Sleeping is a great topic. We are all affected by not getting enough or being on a non-average cycle. I wake up before dawn nearly every day.

I'm nearly 71 and teach 2 mornings a week, which eats up nearly 5 hours, counting the commuting time. I need a nap in the afternoon, especially on days when I get active in the forenoon. If I don't give in to the nap impulse, I simply can't function in the evening, and end up going to bed just after sundown, what my grandmother called "going to bed with the chickens."

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