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By BEN OLSON/For The Herald  —  My youngest boy is 24 and has the special ability to continue sleeping while all those around him have long begun their productive days. Awash in light, conversations taking place, a barking dog- nothing seems to disturb his morning slumber. I’m sure he needs this sleep because he was up until all hours texting someone else who also has the ability to sleep in.

I was once like that, remaining in a coma-like state in the morning, unable to answer the call of the alarm, hitting the snooze button time and again, thinking that I’ll feel ready to get up with 5 more minutes of Z’s. That began in junior high and continued until I was in my thirties. When my head hit the pillow, I was down for the count. Not so much anymore.

As a youngster, I remember the old folks telling me that when I got older, I wouldn’t be able to sleep like that. I thought that was just talk coming from people who were envious of my youth. Now that I’m an old folk myself, I can see that they were right, and now I’m envious of my son’s ability to sleep the way he does.

The experts say that, as you age, your body produces a lower level of growth hormone, so you’re apt to experience a lower level of slow wave or deep sleep. That is the most refreshing and regenerative part of the sleep cycle. When this happens, your body produces less melatonin, which results in a more fragmented sleep- you wake up more often. More than one of my acquaintances in my age demographic has shared with me that it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep having to get up and pee every 2 hours.

Many folks, as they age, are dealing with chronic pain, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Even if you aren’t dealing with these conditions, if the person you’re sharing a bed with has them, it doesn’t bode well for you to get a good night’s sleep. There is a myth that you need less sleep as you get older. Researchers have found that you need just as much sleep at 70 as you needed at 30. The CDC has issued a report that adults getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night are at much greater risk of heart attacks, diabetes, depression and stroke.

I have reached the point in life that I give myself permission to take a nap, if the mood strikes me. It seems to work very well for both my dog and cat- they’re napping all the time. 20 minutes with my feet up gives me that boost to get back on track finishing up the projects I have laid out for myself. It does seem odd that we are given a short time on this planet and we have to spend a third of that resting up for the other 2/3rds.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo


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