There are lots of reasons to look forward to retirement: more time for leisure activities, a break from long commutes and crazy bosses, a chance to finally get some money back from Social Security. But here’s another plus: You may start sleeping better than you have in a long while.
Sleep disturbances can become more common as we age, as many studies have shown and many older people can attest. But retirement appears to have a mediating effect for many, sleep research is finding.
For example, a study of French gas and electric company workers that spanned the seven years before and after retirement found that retirees were 26 percent less likely than pre-retirees to report sleep disturbances.
The improvement “was largely explained by preretirement risk factors, including high psychological demands at work, physical and mental fatigue, depression, and being overweight,” the authors of the study reported in the November 2009 edition of the journal Sleep.
Similarly, an August 2012 study published in the same journal found that retirees were significantly less likely than the non-retired to awaken prematurely. A possible explanation, the authors wrote, was “simply reduced pressures to sleep at fixed times due to retirement.”
Indeed, a third recent study found that while retirees were likely to go to bed later, they also tended to wake up later and to get more hours of sleep overall. That study, published in the March 2016 edition of Sleep, speculated that, “working, particularly full-time work, imposes sleep duration and timing patterns that would not otherwise occur.”
In other words, given their druthers, retirees can stay up to watch Saturday Night Live and make up for it by sleeping in a little the next morning. And that’s another nice thing about retirement: You get your druthers.
Greg Daugherty is an award-winning writer and editor specializing in retirement topics. He has served as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest New Choices retirement magazine, executive editor of Consumer Reports, where he wrote a popular column about preparing for retirement, and senior editor at Money. His work has appeared in Money, Smithsonian, Parade, The New York Times, and NextAve.org, among others.