ELDER MUSIC: Save Your Sugar For Me
A TGB READER STORY: "No" is Not Always a No

Two Realities of Growing Old

For as long as this blog has been here, I have kept a notebook of thoughts and ideas for future stories. It is a godsend to have when my mind goes blank or, in today's case, when I'm just plain tired, feeling slow and stupid – as from last Thursday's all-day chemo session.

But you don't need to be a cancer patient to be tired. It comes quite naturally with old age and in that notebook, I found a couple of relevant reports from long-time TGB readers that I think most of us can relate to.

Salinda Dahl talked about the common old-age difficulty with sleep:

”Over the past year, sleep has become very elusive,” she wrote, “and despite good advice from herbalists and docs, meditation, lots of exercise, no screens before bed, ETC, the situation persists.

“For now a coping strategy is to take a nap each day, whenever possible. Not only is my capability to function impaired by the tiredness, it's also more difficult to keep a positive attitude. Would love to hear how others deal with this.”

Me too, Salinda, that elusive search for sleep. For more than a decade, unrelated to my cancer, I hardly ever slept more than three or four hours. I tried all the recommended pills, potions and practices to no avail. Each worked for a few weeks, then stopped.

What finally changed is that about six or eight months ago, I remembered that I live in a state where cannabis is legal so I tried that. Wow! A full night's sleep – seven or eight hours. Consistently, night after night.

But before long, that stopped working too. I asked one of the cannabis dispensary “bud masters” who told me that most sleep aids wear off in time and I should rotate different kinds – an edible, a tincture, etc. One of my physicians agreed and now I am happily sleeping through the night most of the time.

What works for one person does not necessarily work for others. In my case now, I am grateful to have found a solution. I had almost forgotten what a good night's sleep feels like.

On the same post as Salinda's comment, Jim Fisher left this note about how his enjoyment of volunteer work in nearby natural areas has raised a new age-related concern:

”As this work has branched out and expanded I have found that being in my 70s also means that I just don’t have the energy and stamina to do everything I want and I worry that I may not live long enough to achieve everything I care about.

“It’s a new, nagging feeling, and one I try to dismiss. But it reoccurs when my hip and back ache or I get too tired to endure City council meetings that drone on for hours, etc.

“I want my youthful body and energy back I guess. Thank goodness and thank you that I know I have a place to share my feelings and know I am not alone.”

Part of having achieved old age, I think, is a growing sadness as our personal end time looms. Of course none of us will finish everything we would want (but you knew that, Jim) and Jim's concern is nothing less than the nature of the human condition that philosophers and thinkers have been seeking answers to for millennia.

For me, it has become easier to live with, easier to think about, since my psilocybin session in December. That doesn't mean I have any answers to the ultimate dilemma of life or even the decline of the energy and stamina we once took for granted.

But I thought I'd throw it out here for us to discuss. I'm eager to hear your thoughts.


Getting enough sleep is an obsession with me. The only thing that works is Ambein and I try to limit that to the three nights around the full moon because my doctor doesn't think it's a good drug for seniors.

For many years I've been going to library and other used book sales. I was at first surprised by the number of books I came across on how to deal with sleep problems, but their numbers continued to grow, and thanks to discussions here and with others, and my own personal experiences, sleep problems appear to be almost insurmountable, or at least for those without legal access to cannabis. Now and then I catch what almost feels like a good night's sleep, but the fact that those nights stand out as rare and notable as they do seems to suggest the chronic nature of this problem.

A year or so ago I saw an article about a place that offers communal sleeping experiences. It looked rather like a big slumber party for adults, and I think it was on a floating structure, like a big houseboat. I can't recall other details, and can't find references to this now when I search, but people seemed to be having really good nights of sleep. Perhaps we've interfered with so many natural aspects of sleep, or maybe, like a lot of things, it's always been a big problem for most people, but just not discussed or considered serious enough to warrant attention. There have always been medications, mostly over the counter, but before the pure food and drug act, most were full of alcohol and opium (laudanum) and other not-so-good things -- even those for babies.

My grandfather from whom I learned what little wisdom I possess had the following to say when confronted with terminal cancer: "I have gotten to do many of the things I wanted to do in my life and I still have some left. I think that's a good place to leave it." It meant a great deal to me especially as I grew older myself and watched some very sad purple who felt they had done all they could or wanted to and were just sitting around waiting to die. Keep on going until you don't! Hmmm, sounds like someone around here!

I don't have any trouble falling asleep but do take melatonin at night. I also go to bed about the same time and wake up about the same time.

Sleep Problems: I have four remedies I rotate through, with a night or two with one and then the other. #1 is melatonin but I sometimes think it contributes to my tendinitis in my thumbs so I limit it. #2 is Benadryl which I need only take 1/2 tab for 3 to 4 good hours, but it is somewhat constipating so I limit it. #3 is to eat a banana and it usually puts me to sleep for at least 2 or 3 hours, or if I am really serious, a waffle square along with it, and I can go out for up to 4 or 5 hours. #4 is to sense that I might be tired enough to go natural--sometimes I do this to prove to myself that it is possible and to try to prevent the body from thinking it always gets a sleep aid so it doesn't forget how to do the natural thing. If I am keyed up or agitated over some event or worry, then all bets may be off and tossing and turning all night long might be in order.

Waning energy and stamina: It's a stinking situation and it's getting worse, I know, until, until, well you all know.
At 71 I am still okay but not what I used to be, not by a long shot. This summer we are heading to Europe for a month of meandering around to try to have some fun while we can. That's our battle cry, do it now, asap because at the current rate of decay and changing attitudes there are no guarantees for the future. The term BOHICA applies to old age if any of you have ever heard it. As for melancholia, it does creep into my psyche every now and again that I notice but I will go so far to say that there is a nearly constant underlying level of sadness which I might call low grade depression and I think it will get worse before it gets better, only getting better when I flat on my back and give in to the last phase.

In my thirties, my then husband and I went to have lunch with an elderly woman who worked in his lab at Woods Hole, Ma. As I knocked on the door I saw her across the living room in a chair, startled awake by my knock. My dear and ignorant young self was slightly alarmed, and uncomfortable by what I saw. We had a fine lunch, and the elder was good company. Later when we were outside, she pointed out a Sun Dog to me, the first I'd ever seen. Then she gave a brief explanation. Now, whenever I see one, it is still enthralling, and I fondly remember the woman who introduced me to this joyful phenomenon.

P.S. Am currently in a pretty good sleep cycle with the help of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. And I roll with it a bit better........if it takes a nap before lunch to enjoy the rest of the day, so be it!

Hi, Just wanted to add to the sleep conversation. I have had sleep issues for a good part of my life. I am 71. Some years ago I went to see a sleep specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He gave me one very important piece of advice. Do not worry about getting enough sleep. Get on with your life. Do not even think about sleep. It does not matter. Your body will take care of itself. Nobody ever died from lack of sleep. I took his advice. If I cannot sleep I get up and do something. If I get 4 hours of sleep I am just fine. Sometimes when traveling I might take something the night before especially if I have a long drive ahead of me. Today lack of sleep is the least of my concerns. Today at 71 I travel, ride my horse, practice yoga, work out, eat healthy. Certainly I do not have the stamina I had, I feel my age in my joints. I should also mention that I had cancer and also have bronchiectasis in one lobe of my lungs so my health is not perfect. Anyway his advice concerning sleep was the best advice I ever got

I, like Ronni, use cannabis to get at least 5-6 hours of sleep at night. If I don't use the cannabis, I'm lucky to get 4 hours.
My physician gave me a prescription for sleeping pills (Trazodone) several years ago and I took them for a while, but hated the idea of these chemicals in my body, and the thought of getting addicted to them.
I much prefer the cannabis (Indica). 1-2 tokes and I'm ready for bed.

My parents nicknamed me "Snoozin' Susan" when I was a child and nothing has changed. Sleep is still my #1 priority. Without a good night's sleep I'm worse than worthless. I observe most of the "sleep hygiene" rules, but if I lie awake for more than 20 or 30 minutes, my anxiety kicks in and then it's hopeless. Half an Ambien solves the problem.

I agree with Amelia and perhaps as a horse person, we tend to view things pragmatically. Plagued with sleep problems as a young mother and obsessing about made me realize that I worsened the problem. Now at 68 I go with the flow and sleep or not. I will not get out of bed if I can't sleep because I think training my body to stay put is important. Bed time is bed time in the bed. For me. Sometimes I use time release melatonian. Caffeine gets me through and I limit that to before noon. Yes, roll with it is my best advice. Life is too short to worry about most of the stuff we worry about.

Sleep. Illusive sleep. Better with 10 mg melatonin and daily naps. At 71 feel too young to have to pace myself to preserve energy. Cannot do activities even fun ones two days in row. Need recovery time. I, too, feel I'm running out of time to explore creative areas of long time interest and to complete advanced fiber projects. Couple years ago decided to eliminate people and activities that are simply not enjoyable, which has freed up time for my most important pursuits. Where or where is the love of my life I'm still to meet? And if I do find him, what tough decisions will be needed to make that enjoyment possible? Visualize the Mad Hatter - that's me!

I, too, am 71 --- just retired 2/28/19. My job had weird hours and I was in 3 branches of the service. I had to learn to sleep "at will, whenever". Part of military training is sleep deprivation. It seemed I was always ready to sleep during the duty day. After the military, I had to sleep "on call". I used a cherry
flavored cough/tylenol liquid from the commissary. It is a commissary version of Nyquil and does contain 10% alcohol. For me it works in about 15 mins. I also
take 10mg of Baclofen as prescribed by my D.O. I no longer have leg cramps waking me up. Skelaxin (generics available) relaxes the muscles. I get at least
7 hrs. a night on a regular schedule now. Nice. Amelia is right; your body will tell you when sleep is needed. Also, I take an occasional mid-day nap.

I've worked since I was about 6. Now I have some time to do all my projects
Energy and stamina prevent me. I have a "to do" list a mile long, and my child bride (11 years younger) keeps adding to it. I have tried to do things like I did
when I was 21 (like putting in new sinks), and my body quickly tells me no.
As I used to say at work, "Older men are just not as flexible as younger men!".
Caffeine makes me "speedy", but then I crash. Vicodin got me through my
job, but I totally gave it up when I retired. I do a lot of projects now, just much slower.
I find if I move too quickly, accidents happen. Now if I can just get this fog out of my brain!!!! B

I generally fall asleep but if I wake up at 3:00 in the morning with no hope of getting back to sleep I take half of an Ambien 5mg. and that works. Pill cutters can be very helpful.

We (68, husband 76) NEVER had sleep problems until the last few years. From then on, it's another world. I seem to alternate a really good night's sleep with a very wakeful one. Husband has lots of nights with only about 3 hours of actual sleep.

Nobody is especially worried, in pain, or otherwise stressed--it just seems like a basic internal clock has changed.

I am, however, using this opportunity to lobby for a new bed, which we could definitely use anyway. Who knows? It might help.

I was interested to read your experience with cannabis, I've tried it myself with variable results. For me it is a very fine line between getting sleepy and getting high and thus unable to sleep. I'm wondering if you are using a particular ratio of THC:CBD or if there is a particular variety of cannabis better than others.

Last month I started CBT-I (cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia) with interesting results. I haven't been able to achieve more than 6/6.5 hours of sleep, but I am no longer spending hours lying awake in the middle of the night. Instead I spend long evenings trying to stay awake! I prefer that to the lying awake in the night, but I don't seem to be able to break through to 7 or 8 hours of sleep.

I like that no drugs or other ingestions are involved, just a retraining of the mind and body to sleep when in bed. One of the books I read on CBT-I said that while this therapy would improve my sleep, it would not completely counteract the effects of age.

I can live with the 6 hours of sleep, but I dream of more!

I LOVE the weight of a pile of blankets when I sleep. As it gets warmer it'll be time to start removing some layers. I researched weighted blankets; weight, without as much heat. One will arrive tomorrow, I'm looking forward to giving it a go. And, yes to marijuana.

I have taken the same dose of time-release Ambien for 10 years. A lifelong insomniac, I got worse as I aged, and this med has had a profoundly positive effect. My life before was constantly sleep-deprived and most days miserable. With this medication, I sleep for 7 hours and have no after effects except to feel rested and alert for the day. I have never had a single goofy side effect of the type the press loved to report in the medication's early days. I take medications for several other chronic conditions; I don't quite understand the stigma surrounding this one. Pot is not an option in my state or I'd try that, also. I hope your rotation of sleep aids continues to help you, Ronni. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

For sleep I've tried a lot of the same things TGB readers have with a wide variety of results. Some of the meds I've been prescribed over the past couple of years for a variety of physical issues involving pain and insomnia affect serotonin levels, which may not be a good thing, at least for me. Many of them make me very agitated and restless which is NOT the effect I'm looking for at bedtime so I stopped taking them. I tried melatonin once or twice and had the absolute WORST nightmares of my life so I'm afraid to try it again. I haven't yet found the right combination/dosage of marijuana (legal in my state). My goal is to reduce pain and improve sleep (the two seem to be related for me) but not become incapacitated for several hours!

As far as being able to do a lot of the things I used to do and enjoy: fuhgeddabout it--not gonna happen. I'll admit that at 82+ sometimes the thought does occur to me that I'm not too useful anymore. I worked until I was 78 and miss it although I probably couldn't keep up now. To those still in their 60s-70s and in good health, I suggest: "do it now"--whatever "it" is for you. In your 80s you may not be able to.

Hi, Ronnie. Happy Spring! I discovered an unusual sleep aid, thanks to my husband. He would listen to the BBC at night. I found that strange until I tried it. The sound puts me right to sleep. When I wake up to pee, I turn the radio back on. Thanks to NPR, it drones away all night.

I try variations of most of the above (for sleep) but here are several additional things I try with varying success - teas: valerian and camomile (double t-bag), special glasses (inexpensive - online) that block blue light (especially effective if you watch TV or computer screen before bed)and doxycycline (active ingredient in Vicks PM - located in the sleep aid section of the pharmacy). Like others, I rotate these.
Lately, I also experience restless leg syndrome so I will investigate some of the mentioned meds. For now I am trying swimming to see if it helps.
Just announced to my husband today...we need a trip to the cannabis dispensary for arthritis pain.. another age related bug-a-boo. Thanks all for sharing - at 73 I thought I was too young for all this!

Thank you all for making me feel normal.

Up until I turned 80, I was basically in great health and thought I was too young for most ailments of "old age". Surprise!! I'm fortunate (maybe) in that I haven't developed any of the major killers of old people--so far. However I have found that other less lethal conditions can cause unwelcome alterations in one's life, abilities and outlook. It is what it is. . .

At 94 with my wife at 90, we sleep in "spurts" (not an illustrative adjective) in a queen double bed. We lived in Mexico for 24 years until 2014 and had a kingsize there and before. We sleep with our TV on at low sound … but the light from the tube helps when we have our nightly calls of nature. I am a blogger, and the wife attends many sessions at our facility … especially BINGO. Turns out that BINGO is very important in the daily lives of these very elderly women. It gives them a reason to ask each other "how'd ya do, today" as they meet at dinner or when passin' in the hall.
We both take more daily meds than we can count and nothin' hurts very much. If it does, we have switched to Aleve and we pop one in our mouth with a bit of water. We don't worry about dyin' … it's gonna happen to all of us, some sooner than later. It's actually a phase with little to worry about … as long as we don't outlive our finances.

When I was a young woman I was sleeping with the windows open and during the night a drunk had hit the telephone pole on the street opposite my bedroom. The fire department had come, neighbors from blocks away had heard the crash and came to find out what happened. The police and a crowd gathered near my bedroom window. The next morning I woke up and saw that the pole was knocked down and asked what happened to the telephone pole (having blissfully slept through the entire thing). What I wouldn't give to sleep like that now! Oh yes, my hearing was perfect then.

Sleep is elusive and I finally decided that since I don't have to go to work the next day it really doesn't matter. Now I just take whatever sleep that nature decides to give me and if it comes before lunch, so be it.

sleep perchance to dream...

I'm 70. For the past bunch of years sleep is not consistent. Mostly starting in my sixties I needed to get up after a few hours to take a leak. Sometimes more than once a night. Things are slightly better now in that only once a night, but getting back to sleep is difficult if not impossible.

I usually take a nap every afternoon after lunch, sometimes before. Just flop on the sofa and zone out for an hour. Feel great and I have more energy in the afternoon as a result.

For unable to get back to sleep... I keep an old cell phone (on airplane mode) by the bed, so if I start to toss and turn I put in the ear buds and listen to some Solfeggio music.

I see no one has mentioned Xanax. Luckily I don’t often have sleep problems, but when I have too much on my mind or some anxiety, nothing works better than a half of Xanax or a whole one if needed. Sometimes I add one ibuprofen,since at my age, I do have some aches and pains.

But the main thing for me is to just not worry about it. One night of crummy sleep is not a big deal, but more, I can see would need help.

And yes, I easily tire more often but sometimes I do feel that comes from not doing much...just sitting around reading or watching TV.

Luckily I have a yard I love to work in and just be out in. So daily and sometimes several times a day, I just stroll in my yard, pull a weed or two, trim back a little branch here and there, deadhead a flower pot...just putzing really. But I find I’m energized doing just that little bit. Maybe it’s the fresh air.

Life is short..live it simple, try not to worry because it’ll do no good anyway and enjoy all the little things. They add up to a lot more that one or two biggys.

72 here. I began having problems sleeping as menopause approached. My problems got worse and I tended to have about two sleepless nights to every single night of good sleep. After years of problems, and taking melatonin fruitlessly, I finally figured out that I was tense, and had a hard time relaxing. And, from to time, had back spasns. When I started sleeping on a heating pad things got better. Now I treasure my heating pad for back pain, as well.

I do still have difficulties getting to sleep sometimes, or getting back to sleep after waking in the night. But I have learned not to obsess. The next night will likely be better.

A good night’s sleep for me is from 10 ish or 11 ish to about 7 am. Sometimes, O Happy Day, we both oversleep till close to 8.

But I don’t sleep consistently. And it is what it is.

I hate sleep. Or should I say I hate the time it takes from me doing other activities. I used to fret over the four hours of sleep I get at night. Now, I embrace it.

Being a night owl, a typical “night” for me is from 4 a.m. to noon. That doesn’t leave much OP (other people’s) time for appointments, grocery shopping, etc. And since I take a diuretic for blood pressure, it’s necessary for me to take it by 8 a.m. if I want to have a pee-free time for those afternoon outings. That means getting up to use the bathroom every couple of hours which often means there will be difficulty returning to sleep.

Like Alexandra, I keep NPR at low volume on my bedside radio because if I have a period of not being able to sleep right away, at least I will be lulled by the mellifluous tones of the BBC announcers or educated by various NPR programs and forums.

Why am I a night owl? Because my favorite and most productive time is from midnight to 4 a.m. That’s when I do my best thinking and writing. One of the benefits of retirement and old age has been the freedom to indulge my nonconforming circadian rhythm.

I don't sleep well in closed in rooms. Open my slider, no matter the temperature, and add my winter quilt on top of flannel sheets. If I do that, I sleep solidly all night long.

I never ever take it for granted but I can sleep on a clothesline as the saying goes. Always have. On command too. Any time. So very many can't and I sympathise. I hope this lasts.

My sleep is so-so, sometimes hard to fall asleep, sometimes hard to fall back to sleep after the 1-2 times I visit the bathroom during the night. But if it's a really bad night I'll sleep late (9:00). My problem is feeling guilty over napping in the afternoon, or even earlier. Sometimes, even after a cup of coffee in the morning I go back to sleep. I do *love* to nap, so I guess I should just try to drop the guilt and enjoy it. However It cuts into my ability to cross things off my to do list which is something else I *love* to do. I keep hearing "go with the flow" but easier said then done. Any ideas about how to go with the flow? Or ideas about how to reduce napping?

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