I regularly Google my dreams. This type of self-analysis has been easy. I wish I could say the same for my sleep.
I’ve always been one to need about eight hours of solid rest. Never could understand how one can function on less. But somewhere during the past decade the quality and nature of my sleep has undergone some unwelcome changes. It isn’t as deep and I rouse often.
Too tired to get out of bed, and too awake to wait for slumber’s return, my brain gears up to torture me. You know, those exhausting 3 A.M. thoughts that grip you, unceasingly swirling around not letting go, like everything from a list of the next day’s tasks, to rehashed conversations–bad and good–to seemingly unsolvable worries.
I follow all the usual advice: I never, ever drink caffeinated coffee (I even promise 2 A.M. phone calls to any waiter who slips up), I exercise daily and I read in the evening to help me wind down. I’m only guilty of not turning in at the recommended same time each night. I enjoy my late evenings out and won’t give them up. If I’m sufficiently tired, I’ll fall asleep almost immediately. Staying asleep is the problem.
So what gives? Sleep is a well documented casualty in the aging process. Ironic, because now is when I need all my strength. Our lives are fraught with all kinds of change–another word for loss.
By the time we’ve reached mid-life, chances are we’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. We may need to face personal or family health issues. Opportunities lost. Expectations and goals unmet. Relationships may have shifted. We adjust to our children’s rapidly changing stages.
Change–good or bad–is unavoidable. Life is loss. Each change is a groove in the gear that moves us forward whether we like it or not.
Inherent in decision making is loss of some kind. Our daily lives are filled with mostly unremarkable choices (Shall I go to the store now or later? Shall I bite my tongue until it bleeds or do I tell her what I really think?) Yet even mundane choices can pitch us toward paths which intersect with other seemingly insignificant choices.
Interestingly, the convergence of lost sleep and aging may be related by more than just physical changes. Perhaps our fitful sleeps are nature’s or G-d’s way (take your pick) of telling us to, well, WAKE UP. Open your eyes! This is it, baby! No time to waste! Now’s the time to live. Appreciate yourself and everyone important in your life. Paraphrasing the wise Jewish sage Hillel, “If not now, when?”
Message received. Now I need to sleep on it.