Is Midlife Playing Havoc With Women’s Sleep?
The average caregiver is a 49-year-old female, according to statistics provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance. And a new report shows that on top of the strain that caregiving and other life responsibilities place on women in middle-age, more than a third of women in their 40s and 50s aren’t getting enough sleep. And nearly half of the women in that age group say that no matter how much sleep they get, when they wake up, they don’t feel well-rested.
The government study looked at 2,852 women between the ages of 40 and 59. The women, none of whom were pregnant during the survey period, took part in a health survey in 2015. In addition to not feeling like they got enough sleep, 20 percent had trouble falling asleep, and more than 25 percent found it difficult to stay asleep most nights.
Hormones are the Likely Culprit
Researchers say that women may face sleep issues at this age more so than men because of the changing levels of reproductive hormones in their bodies. Women who were postmenopausal tended to sleep less than seven hours each night. Women who were just entering menopause or experiencing it fully were kept awake by night sweats and symptoms like hot flashes.
It’s not unusual to experience a hot flash once every hour during the night, so it’s clear just how much this can impact sleep quality. Additionally, a lack of sleep can make worsen the symptoms of menopause, which can then make it even harder to sleep.
Other issues that might contribute to lower-quality sleep in middle-age are anxiety and depression. Also, it’s not uncommon to need to get up to use the bathroom during the night more often than in the past.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Rest
While midlife insomnia might seem like an epidemic affecting women, poor sleep is not something you need to accept as a normal part of aging. In fact, women up to the age of 64 need the same amount of sleep as those in their 20s: seven to nine hours per night. A chronic shortfall of sleep can increase your likelihood of suffering from depression and experiencing attention or memory issues. Unsurprisingly, you’ll also feel more tired during the day.
Tips for improving your sleep quality:
- Avoid large meals before bedtime. Digestion issues can interfere with quality sleep.
- Limit your use of spicy and acidic foods that may trigger hot flashes.
- Try increasing your consumption of soy to minimize hot flashes.
- Lower the temperature in your bedroom.
- Dress the bed with moisture-wicking sheets.
- Avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. All three of these substances have negative impacts on sleep quality.
- Adhere to regular sleep and wake times.
- Get more exercise; it’s proven to help with insomnia.
- Talk to a doctor or therapist if anxiety or depression are keeping you up at night.
If you live with your care recipient and it’s their sleep disturbances that are keeping you up at night, don’t hesitate to talk with their doctor. Difficulties with sleep in the elderly can be the result of medical conditions or medications, and there are coping strategies that can help both you and your loved one sleep better at night.
See your gynecologist or general physician if symptoms of menopause or perimenopause are keeping you awake at night. By improving your sleep habits and following a doctor’s advice, you can put the odds in your favor for a good night’s sleep.