Exploring Retirement

"The institutions and instruments which have been created to meet the problem of ageing, are in no position to provide us with a policy for that great majority of retired people who present no problem at all"

Peter Laslett: A Fresh Map of Life.

Welcome to the December 2016 edition of Exploring Retirement! All of us at Exploring Retirement would like to wish our readers a very Merry Christmas. and a healthy and happy New Year. My wife has a theory that we are meant to hibernate through the winter months! So, in this edition, to round off our look at a healthy retirement lifestyle, I am looking at the importance of getting a sound nights sleep.

Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. In this edition I am pleased to feature a contribution from Peter Gay. Peter writes about retirement for a number of local magazines. If you are interested in writing for Exploring Retirement, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

The Importance of Sleep in Retirement

No discussion of well-being would be complete without considering the importance of a good night's sleep. As we get older we may need slightly less sleep but a good night's rest is still important to our overall health. Lack of sleep is associated with feeling tired, lacking in energy, feeling irritable, being slow to react, poor concentration and poor memory. In his book The Longevity Prescription" The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life, Dr Robert Butler makes the assertion "many things can produce sleeplessness, but ageing in itself is probably not one of them". The old assertion that poor sleep is an inevitable part of ageing is simply not true. When insomnia occurs it is usually precipitated by other factors, many of which can be changed or compensated for.

There have been many studies undertaken to identify the impact of sleep on our minds and bodies. They have found that sleep is important for

  • Brain hygiene. While we are asleep our brains carry out essential housekeeping, removing much of the toxic buildup associated with Alzeimher's disease. Researchers at Duke Graduate Medical School have found that lack of sleep in older adults results in gaps in brain structure, with a resulting decrease in cognitive performance.
  • A study by the University of Exeter, in England, found that sound sleep almost doubled the chances of remembering previously unrecalled material.
  • Sleep disturbance can interfere with the levels of dopamine in our brains (the "reward" chemical). This has been associated with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
  • The role of sleep in supporting our immune system is only beginning to be appreciated. Sleep has been shown to greatly enhance our resistance to the virus that causes the common cold. It has also been shown to enhance the level of antibodies we develop from a vaccination injection.
  • Poor sleep has been implicated in the development of cancerous tumours, probably as a result of a compromised immune system.
  • Finally, the link between lack of sleep and weight gain is now well documented.
  • Strategies for a good night's sleep

    Here are the most important things to consider when you find yourself having difficulty in sleeping -

  • Keep busy during the day. Take some exercise such as going for a walk, but don't exercise in the three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine after mid-day. Caffeine is a stimulant and significant quantities can remain in the body for hours.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. A nightcap may help you get over to sleep but as the alcohol level in your blood drops, it will wake you up again in 2-4 hours.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and can cause nightmares.
  • Avoid heavy meals late in the evening. Equally do not go to bed hungry.
  • If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor if they might be part of the problem.
  • Limit your liquid intake in the evening, so as to avoid waking up to go to the toilet.
  • Your bedroom should be used for sleeping. If you want to watch TV, go to another room.
  • Research has shown that blue light - the kind emitted by electronic screens - has an especially disruptive effect on our melatonin levels as well as our bodies circadian rhythm. Switch off your laptop, iPad etc., well before you intend to go to sleep.
  • If you enjoy a nap during the day, limit it to 20-30 minutes, at most.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Go to bed at the same time each evening.
  • Get up early each morning, preferably no later than 8.30 am.
  • If you can't get over to sleep within 20 minutes, don't fight it. Get up, go into another room and read a magazine or listen to some relaxing music until you start to feel sleepy, no matter how long it takes. Then go back to bed.

  • Featured Activity - The After Work Club

    The After Work Club is a social venture intended to help older people keep connected, active and motivated as they transition from full-time work into retirement. An initial research study, mainly focused on older professional men, found that many struggled with the lack of structure and camaraderie in their lives once they stopped work.

    The research also found that the retirement process can feel like a "cliff edge" to some people, where you can go from working full pelt to doing nothing in a very sudden way. They may have thought about their financial security but there is little to prepare them for a life that they need to structure for themselves. These people feel that they still have a huge amount to offer, they want to do more and they do not want to be labelled "retired".

    The After Work Club functions in two ways. Firstly there are regular meet ups which feature talks from inspirational older people who have used retirement as an opportunity to do great things, as well as informal networking and drinks. These are supported by an online hub where inspirational stories are housed, networks and discussions can be formed and events organised.

    The After Work Club was created initially as a social activity where people could network with others in the same situation. The organisers found that the meetings generated a huge amount of untapped energy. In order to harness this energy a Task Force was created with the idea of making use of the skills, and experience of these people to tackle real world problems. The outcome has been the enhanced feelings of self worth that result from being able to help others in a constructive way.

    To learn more about the After Work Club, take a look at this short video -


    Michael McSorley

    If all this wintry weather makes you feel like curling up with a good book, then Michael's December article is the perfect Christmas present! Click here to read Michael's selection of the best reading matter from 2016.

    Jeanette Lewis

    Jeanette tells me that In North America, there is a sleep awareness week, usually held in March, that promotes sleep hygiene. Sounds like a great idea! Click here to read Jeanette's article.

    Peter Gay

    Peter sent me this article about the Men's Shed in Holywood, County Down. Holywood is an attractive small town on the shores of Belfast Lough. They were among the first Men's Sheds to set up in Northern Ireland. To read about how they are progressing, click here.


    Reflections is intended to showcase short pieces of poetry or prose that reflect on our life experience. This month features another poem by my late friend and colleague, Philip Clarke. Phil was originally from the South of England, before marrying a local girl and coming to live in Northern Ireland. A bit of a film buff, he was obviously not enamoured by the Hollywood, California depiction of his native land!. To read "Hollywood", by Philip Clarke, click here.