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Roy - Interview 13

Age at interview: 82
Brief Outline: Roy has been retired for some time, but is an active member of the local U3A group (University of the Third Age) and likes to take long walks. He frequently visits his older brother who lives nearby. Roy has had trouble sleeping for many years, but has now found a routine for getting to sleep that he feels works well for him.
Background: Retired Local Government Officer, lives with partner

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Roy has noticed a gradual change to his sleep over the years, and particularly since he retired from full time employment. He has developed some routines for helping him to get to sleep and to relax. One routine involves tensing and relaxing every muscle in his body until he feels he is ready to turn over and go to sleep. Another routine is counting backwards very slowly and breathing deeply.

 
Whilst he doesn’t currently fall asleep during the day very often, Roy does have an hour resting in bed to help him feel relaxed. Roy used to find that being physically active during the day helped with his sleep, but finds this doesn’t apply any longer, in fact Roy feels that if he is physically very tired it makes it more difficult for him to settle to sleep.
 
Roy avoids eating or drinking anything stimulating after 6 or 7 o’clock and doesn’t watch TV late at night before going to bed as he feels this may stop him from relaxing enough to fall asleep.
 
Roy believes it is important for older people to be confident in having all the things they need to help them get a good night’s sleep, such as a comfortable bed, and being warm enough.
 

Roy tries to relax when he gets back into bed after going to the toilet, but then he starts to...

Roy tries to relax when he gets back into bed after going to the toilet, but then he starts to...

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So you fall asleep, you are in bed by about half past ten, and you fall asleep by about eleven but then you wake again about oneish is that what you are saying?
 
Sometimes. Yes.
 
Or sometimes you will go. So that is your two hours of the four you think?
 
Hm.
 
How long are you awake then, when you wake up at one?
 
Well I have to get up to go to the toilet, you see and I think that is the reason why I do wake up.
 
That is what I was going to ask you, that is what prompts you to wake up?
 
Yes. And usually I find when I get back into bed, I feel very relaxed then. Just the action of having to get up and change position, but that feeling of relaxation doesn’t seem to last, it only lasts about, you know, ten minutes or so and I feel so beautifully relaxed but then the old thoughts come in or tensions or whatever.
 
And that is what keeps you awake is it, those worries that you mentioned?
 
Usually, if I have to get up at one o’clock or fairly early I do go back to sleep fairly soon. It is the second session when I get up say at half past five, when I can’t usually get back to sleep. 
 
 

If Roy has a bad night he finds it more difficult to get up and get on with things in the morning...

If Roy has a bad night he finds it more difficult to get up and get on with things in the morning...

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So sleep is important for you in those terms of you can get on and do what you need to do. Have you ever had a day when you have said, I am just not going to do that. So you said you have had days when you have just not wanted to get up, but have you slept so badly would it make you change your routine for that day. Or would you even plan going to bed earlier at night?
 
If I had had a really bad night I will linger in bed, perhaps an extra half an hour or even an hour, even take my breakfast up to bed and have it there.
 
So it is not that you are trying to sleep, you just …?
 
I just need to relax.
 
Right okay.
 
And there are, quite often I find now I have to use more and more will power to actually do things. I get not exactly a mental block but I have to – things that I have done almost on automatic in the past have now become more of a problem.
 
More of a challenge for you to do?
 
It is more of a challenge. It is more of a difficulty. Just routine things that you wouldn’t… just like having a shower sometimes makes me feel very tired afterwards.
 
Right. Actually, you seem to be a very active person to me. It sounds to me like you’re ..?
 
I am reasonably.
 
Yes.
 
I like walking. I did a lot in my past. It is only recently I have given up walking on the south west coast path.
 

Roy practices relaxing and tensing his muscles and breathing slowly to help with calming himself...

Roy practices relaxing and tensing his muscles and breathing slowly to help with calming himself...

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But also if I can’t sleep I have one or two devices to help myself sleep.
 
What are they?
 
I try a quick relaxation formula, which is you know, tensing yourself quite steeply to begin with just for a few seconds and then relaxing and moving every movable part of your body that is possible. You know, I would even waggle my ears if I could. Eyelids and facial muscles and mouth. Everything, you just do a quick relax in other words, all your joints, and then take some deep breaths afterwards and that quite often makes me go to sleep.
 
Oh I will have to try that. I have not tried that.
 
A quick relaxation and the other system is counting down, have you heard of that one.
 
No. Do you start at a number?
 
I start from number twenty and then I gradually count down and then I go 20, and then 19, 18, I make each number two syllables and an intake of breath and then expel of breath, down to … if you do it very slowly and regularly and you go down to say zero and say zero a few times then you can go into minus one if you want.
 
If you are still awake?
 
And that, I don’t know how long ago I first found that method. And when I first started it I had to work at it for about a month before it seemed to work. And then after that it worked.
 
That is interesting. So it wasn’t a quick fix for you, it took a while for you?
 
No it took quite a time and I had to keep on doing it, before suddenly it worked. I don’t know why that was. About a month … 
 
 

Roy suggests it is important to have a regular routine for going to bed and getting up.

Roy suggests it is important to have a regular routine for going to bed and getting up.

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I do have a sort of routine for going to bed. I, well first of all I think it is essential you should have a warm bed, that really gets you relaxed and you should have confidence that you have got a comfortable bed as well. You have got to have this confidence I think in order to have a good night’s sleep and then my routine might seem a bit odd but I spend the first bit lying on my back, getting really relaxed or trying to get really relaxed and then I turn over very slowly on to my left side and then there is a certain signal which seems to occur in my brain, is it seratonin or something coming through and then I turn very slowly over to my right side, which is my best side for sleeping and hopefully drop off then.
 
That's when you go to sleep, so you lie on your back and then go onto one side…?
 
For about ten or twenty minutes.
 
Oh that long?
 
Yes. And then I try, I feel that it’s the right time to turn over on to my left side. I don’t know why that is, but …
 
And how long have you had this routine?
 
Oh a long time.
 
And it has helped you get to sleep?
 
It does help to have this regular pattern I think to go to bed every night at the same time doesn’t it. Get up more or less at the same time. 
 

Roy has noticed a gradual decline in his sleep since he retired and puts it down to having more...

Roy has noticed a gradual decline in his sleep since he retired and puts it down to having more...

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So how long ago do you think you started having this sort of two phases of sleep at night?
 
Well all I can say it is a long time ago, probably since I retired.
 
Okay, so you noticed a change in your sleep when you retired?
 
Yes.
 
Okay can you pinpoint anything. Was it a gradual change from when you retired or was it something that happened suddenly as you retired, or was there anything else that was going on at the time?
 
It’s a gradual change. I think. Whether it is connected with the worries which have developed since I have been in retirement, and concern about my brother and [partner] upstairs. And other business matters. They sort of gradually developed in my retirement.
 
But…
 
And are these things that you are worrying about at night?
 
Yes. That is the short answer really. 
 
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