In my experience, once you get beyond a certain age, your lifestyle gradually changes in a subtle, almost unnoticed, fashion.
Over the last decade, for example, I have tended to sleep less – or rather, it may be just that I sleep the same amount as always, but in a different pattern.
I go to bed earlier than in the past. I then wake up in the small hours, sometimes because I need to nip to the bathroom, sometimes not. Invariably afterwards I tend to toddle along to my computer and deal with any email correspondence and/or flick through the newspaper websites to catch up what’s happening in the world.
Originally, this was because I had read somewhere that the best route to more sleep is not to lie in bed awake, trying, but to get up and do something positive until you feel dog-tired again. More recently, it has developed into a habit borne of the conditioning phenomenon known as ‘Pavlov’s dog’ syndrome. As soon as I awake, I am immediately consumed by a compulsion to get on the computer and consume a bucket-load of black coffee.
When and if I return to bed – sometimes hours later – I either go back to a deep sleep or, if that fails to happen, I ‘regain’ my lost hours of slumber later in the day, often with a half-hour nap after lunch.
By this method, I assure my kids, I am awake and functioning for the same amount of time as everyone else – it’s just that, instead of achieving this in the traditional sizeable blocks of sleep and then ‘work’, I have simply cut mine up into smaller but more numerous amounts.
Being a senior citizen myself, of course, in my daily routine and contacts with my fellow human beings I tend to come across primarily the older generation.
This week I have been struck by the fact that, almost universally, those I have consorted with or spoken to have been doing the same as I have.
As soon as it hits midnight – or, having been to bed earlier, as soon as we have awoken in the dead of night – we have been getting up and watching Sky Sports’ live coverage of the Ashes Test series, just begun Down Under.
It has reminded me of the good old, bad old, days when the UK only had two, three or four terrestrial television channels. Because there were far fewer programmes to watch, each morning there was a warm sense of ‘community’ as workers all over the country discussed the latest episode of Fawlty Towers (or whichever other programme was the ‘hit’ of the moment) by the office water dispenser.
Right now – and presumably until the Ashes are finally done and dusted – we ‘band of ancient night brothers’ are doing our bit to revive that life-enhancing spirit.