RT Cunningham


Sleep Patterns - What’s Normal and What’s Not for People Like Me

sleep patterns What sleep patterns are normal for person like me, retired and not so gracefully aging into my senior years? My former sleep patterns,
before I retired, weren’t normal. That was a period of about four and a half years, working 12-hour shifts that changed every week.

I have no room to complain. Except for a single day of every month, I have nowhere I have to be. Younger people could be willing to pay for such a luxury. But is it a luxury?

Routine Sleep is Underappreciated

I have the luxury of being able to sleep at almost any hour of the day or night. I don’t think of it that way. It’s more like a curse. That double-edged sword kind of thing. As my father used to say, “I’d give my eye teeth to sleep like a normal person.” The trouble is, he didn’t have any teeth left when he said that.

Although my sleep patterns are pretty much out-of-whack these days, it was worse at the last job I had. I had some fancy title which meant the same thing as “insurance loss taker”. I worked at a large trucking company and filed accident claims and cargo loss claims for truck drivers. For 12 hours a day, every day I worked.

At the beginning, I worked only the night shift and had to get used to sleeping during the day. I worked four days on, four days off. Then some hullabaloo about salaries and overtime came up. I started working four days on, three off and those days and hours would change. I went from a salaried employee to an hourly employee. The hourly pay ended up being way more than the salary because I always had overtime.

The problems with sleep started when I had to adjust from nighttime sleep to daytime sleep and back again. It started feeling like I could never get enough. It’s one of the reasons I decided to retire. I had a whole list of reasons, but that was near the top.

Sleep and Where I Live Today

Here in the suburbs of Olongapo, Philippines, it should be quiet at night. After all, the downtown area is well over a kilometer away. It just isn’t so.

I never thought I’d have to deal with noise pollution interfering with my sleep. It’s gotten worse in the 11 years I’ve lived here. The street I live on has a lot more houses on it and there’s a lot more traffic. It’s weird because I don’t live on a through street. The pavement literally ends in front of my house.

And then there’s the roosters, dogs and cats, not to mention the pig slaughterhouse within earshot. I only hear the pigs being slaughtered in the wee hours of the morning when all the other noise dies down. But the noise never stops completely.

I have people issues I need to take care of so I can get back to routine sleep every day.

Gamblers, Drinkers and Other People Disturbing My Sleep

Facing my house from the street, there’s a creek to the left side of my property. When it’s not raining, people from the neighborhood like to hang out on the street in front of it. I don’t know what you call it, but there’s a short cement barrier people can sit on. It’s meant to keep people from falling into the creek and it does that too, I’m sure. There’s a light pole on the other side of the creek that didn’t exist until a few years ago.

I don’t mind people sitting there during the day or even into the evening, but not in the few hours before and after midnight. Some people drink there on occasion and some people just make noise. They huddle in that spot because the light is brighter than anywhere else. One of the reasons I like rainy season is that no one likes to sit in the rain.

There’s an area below my carport people around here call a garage (it isn’t). The carport is pretty much even with the second floor of the house and the street. Relatives and neighbors like to play the Filipino version of mahjong in that area. That also includes my wife, Josie, at times. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me. Lately, though, they’ve been having marathon sessions that last until it’s nearly daylight again.

The gambling doesn’t bother me like it used to. I couldn’t sleep because of the noise from the tiles. It only bothers me now when they start yelling and arguing about something.

My Sleep Patterns Today

I’ve gotten used to the roosters crowing at any time of the day or night. The barking dogs and the fighting (or mating) cats don’t bother me unless they’re close to the house.

I’ve gotten used to most of the noise. I usually get to sleep sometime between 10 pm and midnight. I wake up when I wake up, unless something wakes me earlier than I want to wake up. That’s happens more often than not. The outside noise level starts picking up again around 6 am, except for Sundays.

I don’t suffer from insomnia. Ever. I don’t have to change positions hundreds of times or promise to sacrifice children to the gods to get to sleep. If I lie in one position long enough and can tune out the noise long enough, I will sleep.

I never took naps until I started living here. I take them now when I don’t get enough sleep, regardless of what enough means. My naps can take place any time between 10 am and 3 pm, but they usually don’t last more than two hours.

If I could sleep from 10 pm to 6 am every day, I’d be an extremely happy person. For me, that would be normal.

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By RT Cunningham
April 2, 2017