Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Retirement Planning—Adjusting to New Schedules

I’ve never been a morning person. My preferred schedule is late to bed, late to rise, and I reach my creative peak around 2 am. Fortunately, my husband is also a night person. I need 8 to 9 hours of sleep to function at my best; Jagdish can make do on far fewer.

While my current job allows me some flexibility of start time, it’s not enough for me to follow an ideal schedule. One of the things I look forward to in retirement is following my natural circadian rhythm.

Yet, when it comes to retired people I know, most of them go to bed early and get up even earlier. I wonder if this is an inevitable change that comes with retirement. Will the evenings of inspired writing that I look forward to not come to be after all?

As preparation for this transition, should I be trying to get to bed a little earlier each week and to rise earlier, too? I’ve read that adjusting sleep patterns is similar to dealing with jet lag—do it gradually, an hour at a time. Once I stop working, will I crawl into bed at 10 pm, or even 9, too tired to log on to my computer? Is this schedule change the inevitable destiny for the retiree? I can’t bear to contemplate it.

A chilling thought occurs to me. We’re probably going to retire to a condo in a development focused on seniors. Is it possible that the membership rules in these communities specify a curfew? Lights out by 11 pm. I envision the block captain as he pedals silently through the carefully named streets on a Texas-sized three-wheeler. Around his neck is a whistle on a macramé lanyard made by an 88 year-old woman in the Wednesday morning craft club.

Stay up too late and he plasters a red sticker on your door that proclaims “Violation!” Oh the ignominy! Or worse yet, they have circuit breakers up stream and they just cut off your power. The only warning is three short blasts on the whistle, barely enough time to hit the “save” key. Of course, this is a ridiculous notion. Or is it? I have enough to worry about in my retirement planning without adding curfew police to the list.

As luck would have it, a news story in the latest “Brown in the Media” catches my eye. It reports on research showing that teenagers perform better when they are allowed to heed their “biological imperative.” That is to stay up until at least 11 pm and then get 8 or more hours of sleep.

These findings led to some experiments to accommodate this schedule by pushing back school start times an hour or so. The delayed starts corresponded with better grades and reduced obesity. (Apparently, teens deal with drowsiness by shoveling in extra sweets.)

No need to put this information in front of me twice. I have enough trouble controlling my weight without buying into a lifestyle change that feeds a junk food habit. If I have my druthers—and I certainly plan to have them after I retire—I’ll heed my biological imperative, which seems to be stuck at the teenage level. Late to bed, late to rise. That should help me retain a youthful vigor. Cue the music: “…forever young, I want to be forever young.”

Notes to self: Reconsider getting house instead of condo; buy blackout curtains.

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