Why It Takes So Long To Go To Bed And Fall Asleep As You Age

Having turned 70, I know I am officially old. Granted, aging has slowed me down a bit. I walk slower, take longer to remember things, and have a harder time getting up from the floor when I play with my grandkids. But going to bed? Why has that become such a long process?

I remember quickly washing my face, brushing my teeth, and plopping myself into bed. Once I had kids, I generally fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. If I didn't sleep through the night, one of my children had caused the broken night's sleep. Nursing. Bad dreams. Illnesses. And waking up before 7 a.m., even with young kids, was a real drag.

Fast forward to today. It takes me forever to get ready for bed. Let me break down the routine. First, I have to plug in my phone and check email. Then I clean my face. Note, I didn't say wash. The days of splashing some water on and calling it a night are long gone. Now I remove my makeup with an "age-defying" wipe. This is to spare my towels, as I need more makeup these days to (as my mother used to say) put on my face. Next, I wash with a foaming, brightening, "age-defying" cleaner and apply cream under my eyes to diminish my bags and dark circles while I sleep. The final coat is a "Miracle Sleeping Cream" that promises to lessen the "fine lines" (what a great euphemism) of aging and fatigue. By the way, I'm cheap and buy all of these products in drug stores. Maybe if I spend ten times as much, they would work better?

So all that's left is to brush my teeth. Well, that routine has changed as well. First, I must floss and massage my gums. Then, I must use a Waterpik so I can get a good grade from my dental hygienist, followed by two minutes with my Sonicare. I am not convinced the electric toothbrush doesn't add extra time to torture me. But at least I can pop into bed now, right?

Wrong. I can't forget my evening pills to lower cholesterol and keep seasonal allergies at bay. Plus a huge capsule of Magnesium to prevent leg cramps at night. Next, I have to stretch my calf and ankle muscles, also to alleviate the cramps. Then, I have to apply lotion to my hands and feet so they don't crack due to dry skin. At last I'm ready for bed. I put a pillow under my knees for optimal sleep posture, start to read, and within minutes, I'm asleep ... for a while.

My husband and I ask every morning, did you sleep OK? I guess OK is the right answer. Usually, I wake up once or twice for no apparent reason, and I'm up between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., even on weekends when I go to bed later. I feel cheated. After all of that work I did getting ready for bed, is seven hours or less the best I can do? If that's all of the sleep I need, why do I look so tired? Why do I need makeup to conceal the dark circles under my tired eyes?

I think I know the answer. I'm 70. Everything is harder and takes longer, especially my nightly bedtime routine. The only thing that has not become longer is the amount of sleep I actually get.

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