Body clock resets as people age


Patsy Pridgen


Life Columnist

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I was scanning my email when an item in the Rocky Mount Academy weekly bulletin caught my eye.

It was an announcement for something called an Overnight Defy Gravity Trip. A bus will leave for Raleigh at 10 p.m. and return to school at 8 a.m. The trip includes midnight pizza and snacks followed by an all-night jumpfest.

I know the middle school crowd probably considers such an excursion the ultimate in entertainment, but just reading the details left me exhausted. Leaving at 10 p.m.? That’s ten o’clock at night, right? Even more disturbing to my retirement-age body was the idea of an all-night jumpfest, which likely means not only staying up all night but also actually moving around, as in jumping.

The only time I stay up all night now is on the rare overnight flight abroad. And then I’m sitting with my eyes closed, trying to nap a little between announcements for duty-free items and people moving up and down the aisle to go to the bathroom.

These days, it’s hard for me to even make it to midnight. I spent New Year’s Eve in Key West with a group of friends who showed up at my bed and breakfast at four in the afternoon ready to start the party.

In my salad days, I would have said, “Rock on.” Now in my geezer days, I couldn’t help thinking, “Eight long hours until midnight when I can kiss the old year goodbye, say whoopee to 2019 and then finally retire to my comfortable bed.”

I know — it’s sad. I used to love the midnight hour.

When I was young, I was actually a night owl. I can remember staying up to the wee hours of the morning when I was in college. I would do some of my best studying then. When I went “downtown” to hang out on Thursday nights, the action didn’t start until after 10 p.m..

But then I grew up and got a job. I became a community college teacher, and I got my fair share of eight o’clock classes. To be functioning by that time, I needed to set my alarm a good two hours earlier. It took a lot of coffee to transform me into the perky instructor students saw when they came to that early morning class.

And then a funny thing happened as I got older. After 30 years of conforming to the hours of a traditional workday, I began finding I didn’t need an alarm clock anymore. I automatically woke up early. Of course, the flip side of that time coin was that I found myself nodding off by 10 each night.

The hour I used to come alive was the time I now faded. My body clock had reset itself.

Today I’m retired and could stay up as late as I wanted or sleep in any time I desired. But I’m usually wide awake before the sun rises or shortly thereafter. And that all-night jumpfest party that I’m sure the middle-school kids will love?

It would be torture for me.

Check out Patsy Pridgen’s blog at www.patsypridgen.com.