Boy, did I have an “age jump” day yesterday! Up until now, I’ve “suffered” physical age jumps: a new wrinkle here, more grey hair there.
But my memory stayed in tact. I’ve learned a new language (Spanish), finished New York Times crossword puzzles (well, Mondays are my best), played Scrabble against the computer and won more times than not, and peppered my book club discussions with coherent, insightful comments.
But yesterday’s age jump scared the bejesus out of me. I saw myself falling down the proverbial rabbit hole: I was losing it.
I misplaced my keys, even when I’d intentionally put them in my pocket. I couldn’t remember the name of the perennial flower that graces my garden with grand height and color in mid-summer. (I remembered that the name of the flower began with a p but had to do a computer search. OMG, it’s phlox.) My vocabulary sunk to that of an eighth grader . . . maybe even lower. I tried to write but gave up: The words just weren’t there.
I hadn’t slept well the night before. It didn’t matter that I’d taken an all-natural sleep remedy or that I’d put down Jayne Anne Phillips’ Quiet Dell (Spoiler Alert!), a mix of fiction and fact about the 1931 disappearance and murder of Asta Eicher and her three children.
Was it fatigue that caused my memory loss or the inevitable downhill trajectory suffered by all us seniors, except for the very lucky few?
I felt somewhat comforted after reading that researchers at Brown University discovered that fatigued medical residents, when placed in a driving simulator, performed at least as badly as they did under the influence of alcohol. The results of this study suggest that real-life conditions of sleep deprivation are equivalent to or worse than impairments caused by moderate alcohol intoxication. Such fatigue also causes slow cognitive transmission and affects how we process thought and memory, and our ability to be productive.
Okay, maybe it’s not the onset of dementia or the dreaded Alzheimer’s. I just need to string together a few nights of good sleep. Maybe I should consider buying one of those sleep number beds.
Or maybe I should just relax and realize that, if I can’t remember, others around me can. As Joe Cocker crooned, “A little help from my friends.”