Monday, July 16, 2012

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Besides youth, the other thing wasted on the young is sleep. When I was young, I could sleep like the dead for 12 hours and have to be yelled at to get up. I would come in at 3 am from a night out and drag myself out of bed at noon. I'd lay there in a deep sleep without waking up to go to the bathroom. Noises didn't bother me. On those rare occasions when something did wake me, I'd be back in a deep sleep in seconds. I slept soundly in my bed, on the couch, even on the floor if I had to. What I would give today for one night of that sweet, uninterrupted slumber.

I am not alone in having difficulty sleeping as I grow older. Many of my contemporaries long for sleep, and judging from the time stamps on the e-mails I receive from them, they are not finding it. Sleep deprivation can sap your energy, lower your resistance and cause you to nod off in the middle of the afternoon. The market for over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta is through the roof despite such possible side effects as dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a feeling that the throat is closing. (Geez, just thinking about those symptoms is enough to keep you awake.) 

My friend Joe was telling me how much he was helped by the device he wears to counteract sleep apnea. It's called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), unit and delivers a continuous flow of air through the upper respiratory tract, keeping the tissues from collapsing. The CPAP unit consists of a small air pressure generator connected by tubing to a snug-fitting nasal mask that is worn while sleeping. I went for an overnight sleep study once and tried several different types of CPAP devices. I couldn't tolerate any of them; I lay there thinking about breathing and wanted to tear the device off about a minute into the study. As an alternative I tried a dental appliance to help open your airway and that helped some, but was far from perfect.

Something that has helped me without having to go to bed wearing a diving bell is a simple steam inhalator. At bedtime I breathe warm steam for about 10 minutes. This opens my nasal passages and keeps me from waking up because my nose is clogged. I also have a sleep ritual where I attempt to find the perfect sleep position. I sleep on my right side and need to have my cheek against a cool pillow. I use a pillow between my knees to ease pressure on my back. My feet must be touching each other but not pressed too hard together. I use earplugs to drown out noises, and sometimes a nasal strip to help keep my breathing passages open. (Why I think anybody would want to know all this is troubling...even I find it boring.)

Anyhow, what I'm doing works to some degree. I fall asleep almost immediately and stay asleep for around 3-4 hours. Then I wake up and the battle is on. My mind races and I try to fall back to sleep with mixed success. It is during these times that I have the most vivid, bizarre dreams, usually about people I used to work with. I have friends who just get out of bed during the night and watch old movies or hit the computer. I could never do this because it would make going back to bed that much harder. Luckily, being retired, I can wake up any time I want on most mornings, and tend to nap during the afternoon to compensate for lost sleep.

When you're young, sleeping for an uninterrupted 7-8 hours is something you take for granted. Ironically, the young could probably do with less sleep, it's us older folks that need it more. So if I nod off in the middle of one of your more exciting stories, don't take it personally...I just need my sleep.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIP Sheriff Andy

Today we lost one of the most beloved characters in American entertainment. Andy Griffith died Tuesday at the age of 86, his family said. In 1983, he was diagnosed with Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome -- a disorder that affects the nervous system. He bore his illness with grace, and continued to work as much as his condition would allow. Most of us remember Andy from "The Andy Griffith Show" in which he played the amiable sheriff of Mayberry, a small, idyllic town modeled on his own birthplace of Mount Airy, North Carolina. The show debuted in 1960 as a spin-off from a "Danny Thomas Show" episode in which Andy played the character for whom he would soon be remembered. He also starred as a murder-solving Southern attorney in the television series "Matlock" during the 1980s and 1990s.

While Andy's charming manner and humor was the key to the Mayberry series, he was shrewd enough to surround himself with a top notch cast of supporting players. Don Knotts was memorable as the Clint Eastwood wanna be, Deputy Barney Fife. Knotts brought a wonderful sense of zaniness to the show and his high-strung, flighty character was the perfect counterpoint to Griffith's drawling, laid back Sheriff. As with almost all successful sitcoms, other great characters rounded out the cast: Opie, Andy's young son, Aunt Bea, Gomer Pyle (soon to have his own spin-off show) Gomer's cousin, Goober, Floyd the barber, Otis Campbell, the town drunk, and the lovely Helen Krump, Andy's love interest. Together the cast played out little vignettes of small-town life in the American South.

For me, the key to the show's success, in addition to the talented cast and writers, was Andy's character. As a single Dad, he taught Opie by his example what it means to be a good person who tries to do the right thing. He suffered Barney's hair-brained schemes and grandiose ideas patiently without ever belittling his deputy's feelings. He was kind to all who crossed his path, but when the time came, he could also handle himself as the few bad guys who dared enter Mayberry would soon find out. He listened to all who sought him out and good-naturedly suffered Floyd's long, pointless stories, allowed Otis to sleep off his binges in Mayberry's usually empty jail cell, and always knew what to say when one of Aunt Bea's beaus disappointed her. 

Griffith graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949 with a degree in music.After regular appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," he appeared in the 1955 Broadway play "No Time for Sergeants," for which he received a Tony nomination. He later appeared in a film version of the play.  Andy was again nominated for a Tony in 1960 for the play "Destry Rides Again." He made his film debut in the critically acclaimed "A Face in the Crowd," in which he brilliantly portrayed a down-home country boy who rises to political power and corruption on a national stage. A member of the Television Hall of Fame, Griffith also was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007. His 1996 album, "I Love to Tell the Story -- 25 Timeless Hymns," went platinum and netted him a Grammy Award. (Info from CNN website.)

Actor and director Ron Howard, who played Griffith's son, Opie Taylor, on "The Andy Griffith Show," said he is "forever grateful" to the actor. "His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life," Howard said on Twitter. Thanks Sheriff Andy for so many years of wholesome family entertainment.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association