July 18, 2024

COLUMN: I don’t wanna be awake

Make your own case

“When I say

I’m so sad about

I’m not so glad about

I’m so mad I can’t sleep tonight.”

The La’s “I Can’t Sleep,” 1990

As I approach another new year to live (my birthday is this month) I’m wondering if I show all the signs of my age, mainly according to people who got to the age long before I did.

I appreciate my father teaching me during my youth to be a morning person - to be productive. (During his career, he could make the Marines look lazy based on their, “We do more before 9 a.m.” TV commercial tagline).

Now, I don’t have a reason to be up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., most mornings. I am wide awake then. I don’t want to be. That’s my problem. Sure, there are some times when up at or before sunrise is needed, like balloon days or if there is an 8 a.m. special meeting to attend somewhere.

The health people who say 8 hours of sleep a night is suggested, I’m not close. I’m off a few hours. It’s been that way for a few years now. I go to bed at about 11 p.m. and am up at 5 a.m. Sometimes it’s earlier than 5 a.m. Others who remember their time in their 50s say they also had sleep patterns change, and it was usually less sleep.

What is disappointing to me is this is the time of year when I have help. During the warmer months of the year, a fan’s hum easily puts me to sleep. When I lived in the Great Plains, where humidity at night is not a threat, hearing the crickets chirp through an open window was another sleep aide. In recent years, now I’m up at 4 a.m. turning off the fan. And I’m ready for the day.

I don’t want to be.

I wonder if there are negative health effects to less sleep in older years. The National Institute on Aging reports seven to nine hours a night is suggested for older adults, but their studies show insomnia can happen when people are in their 60s. Sleep apnea is another possibility as the body doesn’t get into full sleep mode when it needs to be.

I rarely sleep in a car. If anyone needs a driver for a long car trip, ask me. Heck, I could leave now to see my parents east of Denver and be as wide awake when I get there as I am now.

Better routines and environment can create better sleep just like better, dedicated routines can help lose weight.

A few nights ago on a social media page someone asked, “How many of us are staying up later than we should just so we can take advantage of free time?” I get that. I do that too. Since we changed our paper production schedule last September, a majority of our work has been well into the afternoons and early evenings. There are days when a meeting or game is worth holding space for to get in the next day’s paper.

When I get home after a day like that, I don’t want to eat something and then go to bed. I do want some free time as I have other interests and duties than work. During the winter, I was reading more and at night that was a good starter. I could return to that as there are other books on my list. Other studies show TV and computer screens’ light stimulates the brain so it won’t go into, or delay, a sleep setting. I still have the temptation to follow up on baseball scores or watch a favored movie I’ve seen 37 times.

Some physical exercise could be the trick. I have been attempting to walk more for work, especially in the summer. The walk to the courthouse from the office isn’t bad or to Anson’s for Rotary are more steps to take. There have been evenings I walk after work. (Because of the size of TV screens these days, with open curtains you can easily see what other people watch while you walk. I digress.)

It hasn’t been all bad. Years ago a farmer friend of mine told me sunrises should get the same attention as sunsets. When out checking cattle he took a moment every so often to watch a sunrise. He’s not wrong. Some of my mornings have been just that as I have been on the front step watching the sunrise in the peace and quiet.

Hoping I will be asleep for the next one.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.