Most of the people I know who are over 80 take naps every day. That’s something those of us over 50 but still working don’t have the luxury to do. Although I don’t usually nap even on days off, I think that one of the benefits of retirement for me will be the ability take an afternoon nap if I want to.
It used to be part of the culture in Europe. I remember being in Europe back in 1972 and being amazed that many businesses shut down for lunch and an afternoon siesta. This was especially true in the warmer Mediterranean countries. Now, due to our pernicious example, many Europeans have adopted American working habits. But there’s a lot to be said for recharging the batteries and avoiding the midday sun.
While I don’t get to nap in the afternoon, my commuting does have the advantage of giving me at least 30 minutes of nap-available time on my bus trip home. I take advantage of that opportunity fairly often. To me, that’s one of the prime benefits of using mass transit.
Before I started working in Manhattan, I commuted to various New Jersey locations by car every day. Many were the days when the commute was more tiring than the job. Now, in exchange for a monthly payment to New Jersey Transit, I get to leave the driving to someone else and take a nap. I find that when I get a chance to take a nap on the commute home, I feel refreshed for my evening. But when I don’t, I often find my eyes closing as I watch television after about 9:30. On those days, it’s bed by 10:00. I recognize this as a result of age because I never had trouble staying awake before I hit 50.
The other change in my sleeping patterns that has emerged since I turned 50 is that I awake at sunrise no matter whether it’s a work day or not. Years ago I could just turn over and go back to sleep. But now I find I am physically uncomfortable staying in bed. So even on vacation I was up at 6 and in bed by 10.
Apart from the issue of sleep is the fact that in recent years I find that whenever I sit in a darkened room my eyes close, even if that darkened room happens to be a movie house or a Broadway theater. Billy Crystal speaks elegantly of this phenomenon in his book, “Still Foolin’ ‘Em,” which I wrote about on this blog last October.
In his case, it’s particularly embarrassing because people recognize him as he nods off at a Broadway show. For me, at least there’s the anonymity of just being that old person nodding off. But this nodding off syndrome has nothing to do with being tired or even the time of day. It has to do with the dark, and being over 50.
Oh, and it may have something to do with all the medications I have been taking since I turned 50. So as I make my way to old age I know that I’ll be sleeping more and more all the time. The timing may be a bit off because while my grandson Bryce still sleeps most of every day, he’s sleeping less all the time. Soon he’ll be awake more than me. And that’s OK. I’ll need someone to cut the lawn while I nap.