Fatigue, Sleep Deprivation and Aging


I’ve always enjoyed waking up early. As a child, I woke up approximately 5:30-6:00AM. Hinting as to my age, I’d go down to the basement of our house where we had our TV / play room. I’d sit and stare at the TV, watching the signal pattern until the Star Spangled Banner was sung against the image of the American flag waving in the wind. The first program of the morning was “Modern Farmer.” Quite an appropriate program for a NYC kid in the concrete jungle! Anyway, I loved my morning quiet time to myself downstairs.

When I lived in Israel, we rose and typically started work on the farm at 4-5AM. (Maybe that time watching Modern Farmer was a helpful prelude to my choice to live on a kibbutz). We’d break in the field for tea and cookies at 6AM and then work till breakfast, then returning until a late lunch. I have a fine appreciation for the hard work of Mexican laborers in California after picking every imaginable fruit in God’s creation. The only variation from the routine was when we took chickens to market. Then, we’d start loading up the chickens at midnight and finish work at 6AM when the chicken house was empty and we were ready to take them to market.

Later, back in the U.S.A., I worked as a project manager for Ernst & Young, on a project team that crossed the continent. Email was something new back then and we were addicted to it from day one. If you didn’t get 100 emails a day, you wondered if people were being anti-social. Often, the emails started at 4AM and if you were going to keep up with it and be prepared for the morning meeting, you were up at 4AM to join the chorus of email users.

My first year of ownership of Hearts Pest Management was much like that of any successful business. 100 hours per week of field work, billing, scheduling, customer contacts, bookkeeping, strategizing, education and training. With the success of the business I’ve managed to go to sleep earlier, but never got out of the habit of waking early, say about 4-5AM on average.

With the passing of the years I had just become so accustomed to the routine, and as I mentioned, I always have enjoyed the early hours. Sometimes, with inspirational ideas that would pop into my head, I’d wake up ready to write an article or a blog post at 2AM. It worked. I got a lot accomplished. But with the “Great Recession” as Dr. Robert Reich calls the current economy in his new book, Aftershock, I’d get up at crazy hours of the night, not necessarily for the pleasure of writing, but simply because it was difficult to sleep.

Finally, I exhausted all productive possibilities with the early morning hours and began to admit that the sleeplessness was not good for me. Maybe losing some hair contributed to the conclusion. So for the first time in my life, I started exploring medications. I have tried Calms Forte, a very gentle over-the-counter medication, which has had some success. Two months ago, it was recommended that I take an over-the-counter sleeping aid, which I tried successfully at half dose. I was concerned about the use of the aid on a long term basis and so consulted my physician, who supported the idea, stating that as we age, our sleep cycle can be chemically interrupted, cut short and that the over-the-counter aid would not necessarily be a bad option long term. So the past two months I have been doing just that. And so, for the first time in 8 years, I am sleeping from 10PM to 6AM.

The business has actually been growing nicely this year. So this morning I decided that instead of getting my writing done in the early morning before work, I let my team manage the show while I enjoy my morning tea and work from home during normal business hours. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a healthy, normal weight for someone of my age. But I have wanted to return to my healthiest weight of 155, a goal of which I was some 27 pounds shy. To my surprise, now that I am sleeping much better, I am not compensating with extra food energy and I have easily dropped my first 10 pounds. Hopefully, I can stay on track to return to my weight goal.

We all have reasons why our bodies degenerate. The business climate is so rough. With age, injuries compile and slow our ability to exercise at levels we did as teens. We often work at sit down jobs that don’t permit us the time to exercise. Personal, familial and social life is very complex. Life ain’t easy. We should not make it harder than it needs to be. A healthy dose of sleep, moderate eating, good friends and loved ones and satisfactory, self-fulfilling work, and a sense of purpose, spirituality, is a great formula for us all. By and large, I’ve always managed my life well, so it was surprising that this was an issue that was getting out of hand. Perhaps some of you who have been struggling should explore addressing your concerns with a good night’s rest? I’m not advocating chemicals, just a focus on self-awareness and more consideration for the value of sleep in the whole package.

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2 Responses to Fatigue, Sleep Deprivation and Aging

  1. Deena Lari says:

    Hi, Gerry,
    I second the motion on a good night’s sleep. It’s very important to wellness. For the past 7 years, since I’ve been with Herbalife and have been maintaining a very healthy lifestyle, I’ve found that 6 hours of sleep a night is just right for me. I used to need more to feel rested. As to healthy aging – besides a balanced lifestyle and a healthy outlook, there are natural supplements that really help slow down aging.
    Read my anti-aging article on my website.
    All the best
    Deena

  2. Gerry says:

    Will do! Deena, thanks for contributing to the conversation on sleep disorders.

    Great to hear from you.

    Shalom al Yisrael, Alayich, u’mishpachataich.

    Gerry

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