Most Middle-Aged Women Are Having Trouble Sleeping: 9 Sleep Solutions
You roll over and open your eyes only to realize it is 3 o’clock in the morning. Great, you think, another three to four hours of sleep – except for the fact that that never happens. Now that you’re awake, your mind starts racing about everything you didn’t get done yesterday and your ever-growing ‘To Do’ list for tomorrow. This continues for what seems like forever and before you know it, your incessant phone alarm is going off just to rub it in. Here we go… another day of running on fumes.
Over the years, the rate of people with sleeping problems such as insomnia has steadily climbed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 40,000,000 Americans suffer from sleep disorders. However, researchers are finding that women are having a harder time than men come bedtime.
Why More Women Are Counting Sheep Instead of Getting Sleep
In 2015, the National Health Interview Survey (NCHS) collected data from nonpregnant women between 40-and-59-years-old. A couple of years later, the CDC analyzed the data and published a study as an NCHS Data Brief. What researchers found was telling:
- ~20 percent of all women had trouble sleeping at least four out of seven days a week
Sleep problems were graver for women transitioning into menopause (i.e., perimenopause)
- 56 percent of those women got less than seven hours of sleep on a given night
- 36 percent of postmenopausal women could not sleep straight through night
The Reasons Women Have Trouble Sleeping Are Not Surprising, Doctor Says
So, who is really affected by sleep problems? Assistant professor of clinical medicine with the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, says women will face sleeping problems sooner or later.
“During this time, women can see their body temperature skyrocket, and they can experience night sweats,” he said in reference to menopause and hot flashes. “[This] means they’re experiencing multiple arousals while trying to sleep.
There’s also the onset of mood changes, the most important of which is depression, which is very strongly associated with insomnia,” Dasgupta added. “It’s also a time of change – empty-nest starts happening as kids leave the house and sometimes there’s a mid-life crisis, for both men and women.”
It’s important to note that the stage of menopause a woman was experiencing was a big factor in determining their severity of their sleep problems. For example, premenopausal women (17%) had less trouble falling asleep, versus perimenopausal (25%) and postmenopausal (27%) women.
The Most Common Factors Contributing to Sleep Problems in Women
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There isn’t one-size-fits-all kind of reason and may include, but are not limited to:
- Psychological stress (e.g., struggling through death or divorce in the family; change in domestic roles; children leaving for school or getting married)
- Health problems (e.g., joint and muscle pain; stress, anxiety, or depression; sleep apnea)
- Changes in estrogen levels
In addition to menopause-related symptoms, Dr. Dasgupta states:
“Estrogen helps out with muscle tone in the upper airways and the loss of that contributes to obstructive sleep apnea risk. Insomnia risk also goes up as we age, along with restless leg syndrome, which interferes with falling asleep. Also, as we age, heart failure, lung disease and psychiatric disease risk goes up, and medications to treat these can boost insomnia and the need to go to the bathroom at night.”
Sleep Hygiene Tips: 9 Natural Ways to Overcome Your Sleep Disorders
So many symptoms and so little sleep! One thing we can know for sure is that we will never stop growing older. But, thankfully, you can remedy the sleep issues that seem to inevitably come with ageing!
1) Stop with the Stimulants
Like anyone else, we love a soothing mug of tea or coffee. However, if sleep is something you’ve been struggling to catch, we suggest limiting those beverages to no later than 2:00pm. Better yet, depending on what your body can handle, try cutting caffeine out altogether and see how much of a difference it makes.
2) Start Exercising
Your workouts don’t have to be crazy either! Something as simple as going on evening walks after supper will nicely and naturally tire you our just before bed. (Not to mention how beneficial a bit of physical activity after a meal is for you!) Do that for a week and we bet you’ll be getting deeper sleeps, waking up less often, and feeling more energized.
3) Charge Your Phone Out of Arm’s Reach
It’s a simply yet impactful bedtime ritual tweak. So many times, we start struggling with sleep and, out of boredom, reach for our phones and – boom – there goes two hours you’ll never get back. In addition to throwing off your circadian rhythm, technology’s harsh artificial light also strains and damages your eyes over time.
4) Set Yourself a Soothing Sleep Routine
You know how athletes have pre-game rituals and musicians warm up their vocal chords before performances? That’s what you need: a pre-bedtime ritual. Whatever that looks like is up to you – it could be even stretches, evening stretches, reading, whatever! The purpose of a routine is to help train your brain to start settling down so you can head to bed completely ready to sleep – and only sleep.
5) Do Not Eat So Late
Late dinners or midnight snacks can keep you awake and disturb your digestive process. Eating late also often promotes weight gain. However, if you are going to eat food at night, stick to safe bedtime foods like almonds, cherries, bananas, oatmeal, or valerian as they’ve been proved to help treat insomnia.
6) If You Can Avoid It, Don’t Nap
While some people seem to need a nap (sometimes multiple ones) throughout the day, others do not! If you take naps and also notice that you have trouble falling asleep at night, your problem might have a quick fix. Quick 20-minute power naps are more than enough to shake brain fog and improve alertness. But, napping as soon you get home from work is not setting you up for sleep success – at all.
7) Transform Your Bedroom into a Sleep Haven
Did you know that the average person, assuming they get the suggested eight hours a night, will sleep for 229,961 hours in their lifetime? That translates to around one-third of your life. The truth is, we need our sleep, so why not make it as comfortable and sleep-friendly as possible? Get good blinds, a comfortable mattress, sleep-promoting plants, and anything that might help improve your time of rest.
8) Practice Meditation and Deep Breathing Techniques
Why is it that whenever you’re ready to go to sleep, your mind starts racing with some million-and-one thoughts about anything and everything? We know the struggle. Deep breathing and clearing your mind can help you take control of late-night stressors and relax your tense muscles – all things that increase your chances of a goodnight’s sleep!
9) Hold the Fluids, Not Your Bladder
By all means, keep a tall glass of water by your bedside because hydration is key and we expel a lot of moisture while we sleep. But, there’s no point in interrupting your much-needed slumber to go to the bathroom. You can still go to bed hydrated, but that means having your last major drink two to three hours before going to bed.
Sleep hygiene is a strange term but, if you can master your own, sleep will start to come easy! Remember, though: every person is different so while some sleep remedies will help you, a different combination will be necessary for someone else! So, see what works, what doesn’t, and be sure to share them with your fellow sleep strugglers.
 Women and Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/women-and-sleep
 Mozes, A. (2017, September 07). Sleepless Nights Plague Many Women in Middle Age. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170907/sleepless-nights-plague-many-women-in-middle-age
 Mozes, A. (2017, September 07). Sleepless Nights Plague Many Women in Middle Age. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://consumer.healthday.com/sleep-disorder-information-33/misc-sleep-problems-news-626/sleepless-nights-plague-many-women-in-middle-age-726303.html
 Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Too early to get up, too late to get back to sleep. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/too-early-to-get-up-too-late-to-get-back-to-sleep
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