Sam Bauman: Awe is a lovely and healthy thing; sleep



I get lots of magazines and frequently get behind in reading one. Such was the case with the December 2014 Sierra, put out by the club. There was an article about the emotion of awe and how it affected a river boat trip by a Sierra instructor and a group of teens.

He wrote about a magnificent storm the group enjoyed in its tents. After it ended the kids and the instructor emerged at the same moment, all feeling awe at the storm.

“The world felt different, wrote Jake Abrahamason, the leader. “The air was heavy and hot, the sky a color I had never imagined… Time slowed. The mountains, the river flowing through it all seemed held together by an intelligent pattern. The storm had pulled us together.”

He investigated and found psychologists have found awe makes people feel small and “forces them to revise their thinking of what is possible. In its wake people act more generously in relation to the world.”

There’s lots more to the article about how two scientists made a study of awe. I won’t attempt to discuss it all but the content seemed to suggest awe is a healthy emotion that can change lives for the good.

I know when I make a tremendous ski run I am awed by my success, or when I climb a difficult mountain trail I feel surprised and delighted. I think we all enjoy such moments, perhaps no more than solving a difficult crossword puzzle.

What’d you say?

Audiologist Dr. Nanci Campbell recently sent some reports on developments in hearing aids. There’s lots going on there and those of us who bought our aids several years ago can look forward to better hearing.

Much that’s new has to do with aids that are wired and can receive information for various sources directly into the aids, information from iPhones, TV or computers.

Much of the new technology is already on the market, such as the touch button that sends iPhone calls to the hearing aids. More on the horizon is linkage between the two hearing aids to balance the different sound between the hearing aids for better clarity.

M hearing aids are almost a decade old and don’t have wireless capabilities, but I’m working on saving the $3,000 for the wireless type.

I’ve rerouted my land line calls to my iPhone after four rings. And I’ve a July appointment with the VA which supplied me with my current aids. I’ll try to move that date up and see if the VA will transfer me to Dr. Campbell as the VA has done in the past.

“Good night,” I hope

As we age we tend to lose the abilities that helped us sleep in the past. In a survey by the National Institute on Aging, more than half of those 65 and older noted at least one sleep complaint. Most common was an inability to go to sleep and not being able to stay asleep through the night as we age, but mostly the changes are slight.

As we age, our biological clock tends to reset a little earlier. That means you’re apt to feel sleepier earlier in the evening than before and you wake up earlier. That clock may also send quieter messages to keep you awake during the day or asleep at night. Your sleep becomes lighter and more fragmented — you spend less time in deep sleep and have more periods of wakefulness during the night.

As people age chronic medical conditions become more common — lung problems, acid reflux, stroke, depression or pain caused by arthritis. Drugs used to combat such may contribute to sleep depriving aide effects.

The temptation is to take a sleeping pill. Sleeping pills are a quick fix. Meds such as zolpidem (Ambien, others), eszopiclone (Lunestar) or zaleplon (Sonata) can help one fall asleep quickly and stay asleep longer. Taking a pill to get to sleep may seem easy and obvious; older persons are likely to be the most common users of sleeping pills; twice as much as younger adults with sleeping problems. Most sleeping meds aren’t meant to be used for more than four or eight weeks, yet older adults keep using them for months or even years. Side effects such as daytime sleepiness, lightheadedness and problems with mental and muscle coordination are common.

According to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, older pain pill users have a higher risk of side effects such as falls and fractures because of increased grogginess. It’s dangerous for those suffering from sleep apnea or those suffering with low or slow breathing. It’s to also dangerous to drink alcohol in conjunction with the pills.

The good news is treatment for insomnia isn’t limited to medications. Some common help for sleeplessness include avoiding caffeine and exercising more. Obviously having a good place to sleep helps — a dark room, with little noise, a comfortable bed and no TV or radio.

More on sleep next week.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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