Retirement and insomnia

A place for Sleepio members to discuss retirement and sleep.

Posted 14 Jan 2014 at 7:28 PM
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  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    I am 70 years of age and retired from a demanding job as CEO of a medium sized group of companies, 8 years ago. 12 hour days were the norm with, at least, 2 meeting packed business trips to the Far East and the USA per year. Jet lag was not a problem. I just worked through it. I had to. For over 30 years, if I slept for 5 hours, I had had a good night's sleep. If I was overly stressed, I would preempt a bad night's sleep by taking sleeping tablets or drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Holidays did not help me relax as my mind was always focused on work. I would sometimes need alcohol or sleeping tablets when on holiday. I tried to manage my retirement by winding down over a 5 year period BUT my mind still operates as though I am working. If I have something to do, even to do with my hobbies, I will wake early so that I can start ASAP. I still need to keep a notebook at my bed side so that I can write down anything I am concerned about forgetting. Very little is that important now but I can't change. I know many of my contemporaries have the same problem. It seems to be one of those unmentionable subjects. We are all financially secure but many are fragile when it comes to sleep. Recently, I mentioned my sleep problems to a group of about 12 golfing friends. Some were good sleepers (up to 10 hours per night!) but most had similar sleeping problems, which they just accepted as being part of old age.
    When I retired, despite planning it, it was very stressful for me and my wife. We experienced the most difficult time in our 30 years of marriage. When I spoke to my contemporaries, none admitted to having difficulty adjusting to retirement until I mentioned my problems. Then I started to hear of their difficulties. Admitting to having problems was, I think, seen by them as a sign of weakness.
    Since signing up to Sleepio (I started session 2 on Jan 10) my sleep has gradually improved. By far the biggest help, so far, has been realising that there are others with similar problems or worse and things were not as bad as I thought they were. I wonder how many of your members are in the same situation. I would like to speak with others with exactly the same predicament as me. In addition, unless you introduce it later in the Sleepio programme, focus on how to turn ones mind away from years of high intensity work to a more relaxed view of life would be of great help

  • Sleepio Member

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    Hi Raybin,

    I'm not retired from a high flying job but I imagine slightly OTT personalities, quite high achieving and anxious, and finding it difficult to relax and unwind, is a feature for most insomniacs. I work in the not for profit sector but have incredibly high standards for myself and find it difficult to relax! Sleepio will help you. Also, have you thought about doing any voluntary work for not for profit organisations? I'm sure they would welcome someone with your skills, and would give you a good focus for your mental energy!

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi Raybin
    I retired three years ago from a fairly stressful job . I thought retirement meant I'd never be tired again. I was WRONG. However, Sleepio has taught me to cope with it better and if you remove the anxiety, sleep improves. I hope your sleep will improve as you go through the programme, but you have to stick at it and be patient. At work I felt in control at home I felt sleep, or lack of it, was in control and I am gradually gaining the upper hand
    Btw my partner has just retired and I find that adjustment v difficult, and interestingly he has started experiencing sleep problems. Ther e must be a link. Let us know how you are doing. Good luck

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi Raybin, it sounds like you'd like to hear from others in your position but no takers yet. Why not post a question in advance onto the expert call at 7 GMT tonight? You could get a helpful response, and lots of people are on it or read it later so may pick up your new discussion. I am not retired, but in my late 50s and have reduced work to 2 days a week, largely for health and less driving reasons (fatigue etc.) I've been in hte 'helping professions' for over 30 years. Since then I have taken work home in some form into non-work time a lot, but only had sleep disturbance occasionally. A couple of years ago extended family stress led to what felt like no sleep for a few nights and, timing was fortunate, after one meds prescription I saw Sleepio and have been on it for 6 months. Work is still a major ingredient in me being 'tired but wired' and/?because in my identity. Because of what I do I have some handles on that, like GemmaT, and am finding the Sleepio programme a big learning experience and have had moderate but significant improvement (not with daytine energy yet, but maybe this is due ot other factors.) I anticipate working less days beyond retirement, in a combination of sectors. Retirement and sleep is a huge issue and an important one, I hope your discussion takes off. Sleepio enters a new phase that is a big change in week 3 so getting your support base strong is a great idea. Good luck with your sleep Raybin.

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Mr. Speaker (your name reminds me of Sam Rayburn, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives here in the USA),

    Thank you for putting it all out there. Let me emphasize that you are NOT alone. I can relate to almost everything you have said, and while I was not a CEO, I always set high standards for myself ever since I was a kid, and it escalated in college and grad school where I earned a PhD. This trained me to analyze things a lot, and I saw what was in need of fixing, but since I was not the CEO of a State of CA agency, I was unable to change things since these agencies are very much “top down” like the military. I retired at age 70 a year ago, and experience many of the same things as you. (I was also an entrepreneur some decades ago, and that was a totally different experience.)

    I can relate to what you say about putting that same energy to work in retirement and how hard it is. And I can imagine how difficult it is going from CEO to retired guy. Our society in the west values thinking and doing, and suddenly, we are no longer valued for that. Am I right? It has to be hard.

    I have two close friends who are also retired but younger than I am. I try not to compare myself to them as hard as that is, but enjoy their company. Life is not easy for any of us. And yes, some keep up appearances since the society doesn't look kindly to those of us who are having a rough go of it. And yes, there are tremendous pressures on a primary relationship as well as other relationships. I can …relate (pun intended)!

    For now, I can add that this is the right place for in- depth discussions of retirement. Since it is a brand new topic, others will join in, both those who are retired like we are and others who are still working but can relate to this.

    The hardest thing for us is to be patient, since this is one of the more difficult things we attempt in life.

    After you have completed, say 10 weeks of this programme (4 weeks post grad), tell us what you think of it. Would you have considered introducing it to your employees or are you inclined now to recommend it to your peers? Do you find that it can take a lot of time, and do you wonder if you need to limit your time spent on this? These are questions for all of us to consider. Our strength is that we have life experience, or “wisdom” as they say, and this helps us see some things more clearly.

    Have I given you some things to chew on?

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi GemmaT,
    Thanks for your comments. I have done the voluntary work and worked in one not-for-profit organisation. I may sound arrogant but I found things moved too slowly and no-one seemed to want to make decisions. I found the experience very frustrating. I still sit on 2 small condominium type boards and am not expected to attend more than 3 or 4 times per year. These are more tenable…particularly, as I chair one of them. One thing is for sure. I do not lose sleep over anything to do with these!

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hi sleepsound,
    Your suggestion is good but I was travelling at that time to an airport hotel. I will have to wait until I get back on Feb10. I am very positive about the Sleepio programme as my sleep is improving. Everyone seems to talk about how challenging session 3 can be. I am prepared for pain if I get the gain. I guess I will find out very soon!

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Hi Caliman,
    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply. I will certainly be recommending Sleepio to my fairly extensive circle of ex-colleagues if the programme works for me. I will certainly report back to the discussion forums after the 10 week period you suggest. If I am helped I will be delighted to help others.

  • Sleepio Member

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    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Hi sleeplessinseattle,

    Thanks for your support. I will keep you updated on how I am getting on.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Hi RAYBIN,

    Interesting thread. I've always wondered how CEOs cope with their jobs. Your post has shed a lot of light on that. I am retired too, for the past 16 months, so long enough to have some ideas about how this is all going to work out for me. Funny thing, a couple of weeks ago I was going to ask other members “How do you do retirement?” I was struggling a bit with the whole idea of managing my time and feeling like I needed some help with that but not with the sleep/retirement combination. My sleep has been an issue for 35 years, since kids and throughout my working life. It's much better now, since joining Sleepio so I can't complain. I used to complain a lot, to anyone who'd listen! I'm actually loving retirement and feel it has been one of my better decisions. Being retired has enabled me to work on my sleep. I'm not sure how I could have tackled it while working.

    I have always recommended Sleepio to anyone (friends, colleagues, relatives) who told me they were having a problem. I don't know if any on them ever investigated and the reception was always lukewarm. I still don't understand that.

    One thing I have found extremely helpful is the “putting the day to bed”. Like you, I was always afraid I'd forget something that I needed to do the next day and I would force myself to remember it all night! I wasn't quite so smart as to have a notebook by my bedside. Now I sit in another room and carefully plan out the next day, writing down everything I need to do with the time I will do each thing. If there's something more in the future, I'll put a reminder in my iPhone. That way, when I go into my bedroom, I can leave all that “stuff” outside the door and just get into bed and sleep. The other night, after I got into bed, I remembered something that wasn't on my list. I briefly contemplated seeing if I would remember it in the morning but instead got up and added it to my list. It meant going to the other room, but that was okay because I'm determined to keep the bedroom free of planning and worries. So far, that system has been working very well – 10 months now.

    Take care,
    anniem

  • Sleepio Member

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    Yes, Raybin I'm amused at your frustrations with voluntary sector organisations, even though I have worked in them for the past 5 years and it's where my sympathies lie, I can see where you're coming from! Re lgraine suggestion above, the Lions Club or Rotary club springs to mind. Hope we're not giving too many suggestions – that can be irritating sometimes.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    I love this idea anniem, I'm retired and also a carer for my mum who has alzheimers. My wakefulness often feels like lots of trivia whizzing round my head, and even if it's only a small thing I need to remember for the next day, it's there taking centre stage.( I think I worry about my own risk of developing alzheimers so am sensitive to my memory lapses.)
    I'll definitely putting the day to bed. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Raybin,

    Please listen to Anniem. What she has to say is as valuable or more valuable than this programme! She has great insights about retirement. No matter what our former situation at work, we are all planning and doing a new phase of our lives. I appreciate what Anniem says about having the time to pursue this sleep business now that we are retired.

    So, how'd you sleep on your trip? Not knowing the details, but wondering how a change in everything works for you. It's hard for most of us myself included.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    Hello Raybin,
    When I retired from very demanding job in public service I thought I'd start to sleep better, but it made no difference. I did have loads of other stuff to occupy my mind, moving to a new area and new lifestyle with building and garden projects to manage (jointly with my husband) and loads of physical work to do. I had hoped that leaving behind pressures of being stressed by increasing demand/reducing budgets in public service and working in the outside would free my mind, but sleepless nights just got filled with other thoughts. It doesn't seem to matter whether you're stressing over ¬£millions budget or fretting whether a builder will turn up as promised; if you're inclined to operate at volume 10, that's where your brain will take you! In the space of a year I have joined committees/boards of 3 local voluntary groups and helping in another – old habits don't die. I think I would have been more stressed without getting involved in things like that, where I could use some of the experience I had, and make new connections…and just do something useful.

    The hardest thing I found in this course has been the sleep restriction, which makes me so sleepy in the day. I have to get outside, even if it's raining (most days!) just to stay awake. I function best if I keep busy – sitting down with a cup of tea and a book or papers fatal, I can feel myself nodding off. I don't think I could have coped with this phase when I was working – even slightly boring meetings would have sent me off for sure. It's a paradox spending so much effort now trying to stay awake, when all I've wanted to do for years was to sleep soundly.

  • Sleepio Member

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    Hmmm yes Lgraine, good idea, I also thought he might already be involved in Lions/Rotary but thought I'd mention it just in case.

    Bue

  • Sleepio Member

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    Graduate

    This is a very good topic. Let's bring in others. Thanks to Mr. Raybin for staring it out for us. When he gets back we can pepper him with posts asking him how it went whilst away. There's a tie in between this topic and the one about sleep whilst on holiday since many of us who are retired manage to travel more.

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