Insomniacs aren’t the only ones who struggle to sleep. In fact, the more we get older, the more challenging it is to receive a decent night’s sleep. And if you’re in the over-40 crowd, chances are a good night’s sleep is becoming more of an impossible dream than an achievable reality. But not to fear. No matter what is disturbing your sleep, we have your back with sleep hacks for women over 40 that will help you wake up refreshed and happy.
Sleep and Women Over 40: What To Know
Before we dive into the sleep disturbances plaguing women over 40, it’s important to discuss some facts.
- Firstly, as we age, our bodies produce lower levels of the sleep hormone melatonin. This means you’re more prone to frequent wake-ups and less-than-ideal sleep.
- We’ll discuss this in more detail, but disrupted sleep is par for the course with the onset of menopause. While this is out of your control, there are ways to improve your sleep.
- Did you know people in their 40s tend to receive the least sleep? The culprit: Midlife is often the busiest and most stressful period of an adult’s life.
These facts are not to overwhelm you. On the contrary, they are to show you that if you’re in your 40s racking your brain trying to improve your sleep, you’re not alone. There are so many reasons you can’t sleep as deeply as you did in your twenties, and we’ll discuss each one while providing solutions.
6 Sleep Hacks for Women Over 40
The struggle: During perimenopause, the time before menopause when your periods become irregular, and your hormone levels take a mind of their own, it’s common to experience sleep disturbances. Whether it’s a result of mood swings, hot flashes, or other sleep disruptors, you may notice you’re waking up frequently throughout the night and struggling to receive restful sleep. On top of that, women also become more vulnerable to developing sleep conditions like sleep apnea from the compromised loss of estrogen and progesterone. However, it often affects postmenopausal more than premenopausal women. Yet whatever stage you’re experiencing, it’s beneficial to learn how to manage the abrupt changes.
The fix: If you’re experiencing hot flashes, sleep in a cool bedroom on cotton sheets and take a cold shower before bed. Additionally, wearing loose cotton pajamas will lessen the intensity. As a long-term fix, research suggests regular exercise is the best way to reduce perimenopausal sleep disturbances. If you’re pressed for time, incorporate full body Pilates workouts for beginners and full body no gym workouts for weight loss.
2. Mental health challenges
The struggle: As mentioned earlier, middle age is the most stressful period for many people. Why? Personal and professional responsibilities rapidly increase, making it more challenging to sleep peacefully, and with the added stress of perimenopause and menopause, anxiety and depression also become more likely.
The fix: If you resonate with this sleep disruptor and your stress levels are skyrocketing, it’s worth giving some TLC to your vagus nerve. Known as the secret weapon to combating stress, your vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body and counteracts your fight-flight-or-freeze stress response when activated. While there are many vagus nerve exercises for anxiety, a quick and effective one to add to your routine is a breathing tool.
- Put your hands in front of you in a prayer position
- Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your nose
- Hold your breath after the exhale and push your hands together
- Keep pressing your hands together while holding your breath until you feel the urge to breath
- Repeat every step for three rounds
The struggle: It goes without saying that lying awake in bed and staring at your alarm is one of the worst feelings ever. But unfortunately, this feeling affects 1 in 4 women and is a result of several factors, including perimenopause, menopause, post-menopause, chronic stress, and those who work overnight shifts.
The fix: Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and yoga are some of the best sleep hacks for women over 40 to combat insomnia. In fact, meditation is shown to decrease intrusive thoughts, lessen emotional reactivity, and create reflexes that promote relaxation. Yet the key is to practice at least 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation before bed, following guided meditations for sleep or mindfulness activities that enhance self-care.
4. Frequent wake-ups
The struggle: Nobody likes waking up at night, especially when it’s repeatedly happening and causing sleep deprivation the following day. But there could be an underlying reason why you’re experiencing frequent wake-ups. Your circadian rhythm operates within a 24-hour period and controls your sleep-wake cycles. And one that is out of sync with your environment could cause you to wake up throughout the night.
The fix: The best way on how to reset your circadian rhythm is to follow a consistent sleep-wake schedule to train your body for deeper sleep. This means forgoing guilty pleasures like a Netflix binge to sleep at the same time every night. If you struggle to adopt a strict sleep routine, gradually move your sleep time to half-hour shifts. For example, if you go to bed at 12, try going to bed at 11:30 to start.
5. Melatonin production
The struggle: Beyond age, there are several factors that affect your melatonin production. For example, how much sun exposure you receive during the day, existing hormonal balances, and even artificial light can all affect the pineal gland from producing adequate levels.
The fix: Like everything with our health, it’s important to follow a holistic route to treat a melatonin deficiency. For example, eating a diet rich in foods that produce serotonin will trigger melatonin production, reducing your stress levels, moving your body and even limiting technology use. Indeed, avoiding all electronics an hour before bed will signal your pineal gland it’s time for bed.
6. Life transitions
The struggle: It’s not a surprise that life transitions add to our stress and affect our health. Women in their 40s are in the between stages of caring for their aging parents while still caring for their families. This double responsibility intensifies the worry and impacts your ability to sleep deeply.
The fix: To avoid caregiver stress, make sure you are prioritizing your own self-care during this time. It’s vital to learn how to put yourself first and follow your needs. Even if you can only practice a few simple 30-minute self-care ideas for women, like reading a book, taking a hot bath, or catching up with a friend, it’s worth it for your overall wellbeing, including your sleep quality.
Let’s face it there might be a few factors affecting your sleep quality, especially ones out of your control. But it doesn’t mean you can’t persevere and receive the zzz’s you deserve. Indeed, if you follow these sleep hacks for women over 40 and experiment with what works for you, your body, hormones, and brain will thank you.
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