After 40, most people worry about gray hair and wrinkles. But what about sleep troubles, a problem that shows up with age? According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average woman, between 30 and 60 years old, sleeps less than 7 hours a night. Surveys have also found that women are more likely to have sleep issues than men. Yet, when sleep is a vital part of healthy aging, it’s a topic that deserves attention. Getting older doesn’t mean that you need less rest. If anything, you need the same amount as any other adult – at least 7 to 8 hours each night.
The causes of sleeping problems after 40 range far and wide. Mental and physical changes are common culprits, such as pain from arthritis. Sleep disorders, medicine, and stress can also get in the way. Despite these roadblocks, it’s never too late to improve your sleeping habits. By starting sooner rather than later, you can boost your chances of aging with grace.1 2 3
1. Visit A Therapist
Are you exceptionally stressed lately? Consider cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Anxiety has a strong association with chronic insomnia, but CBT is the gold standard of treatment. It’s also been proven to manage hot flashes. Remember, you might not click with the first, second, or even third therapist that you meet with. It’ll take time to find the right one, so patience is key.4 5
2. Reduce Caffeine Intake
As you age, caffeine sensitivity increases. This might sound like a nightmare if you’ve been drinking coffee or tea your whole life! However, limiting intake might be the key to better sleep. If you can’t fathom giving up your favorite beverage, try drinking decaf or having your last cup earlier in the day.6
3. Change Medications
If you’re on prescription meds, look into the side effects. Some drugs can cause anxiety, night sweats, and other problems that affect sleep. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different kind.
4. Try Yoga
Yoga has benefits for elderly women, but why wait? A gentle practice will improve physical factors like fatigue and heart rate. Stress and anxiety can also be controlled with yoga, especially if CBT isn’t your thing. Remember, practicing yoga doesn’t mean you need to turn into a human pretzel. Basic, simple poses are all it takes.7
5. Exercise More
We all know that physical activity is great for the body. But according to a 2012 study, it can specifically manage sleep problems. The experiment had 305 adults over 40 do an aerobic training program that lasted up to 16 weeks. By the end, the participants had an easier time falling asleep.8
To top it off, exercise can prevent and manage chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. After 40, this is even more vital. Exercise might seem intimidating if you’re not already physically active, but every little bit counts! Start small, even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes of brisk walking each day.
6. Get Yourself Checked For Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea disrupts breathing, making it hard to get quality sleep. Unfortunately, the risk increases with age, so it’s worth noting after 40. Smoking, family history, and being overweight can also bring it on. Treatment will depend on the severity and overall health. However, by working with your doctor, it’s possible to improve sleep.9 10
7. Use Aromatherapy
Never underestimate the power of soothing aromas. Essential oils like lavender, vetiver, and chamomile are all known to enhance sleep quality. And the benefits aren’t just limited to the elderly. To use essential oils in aromatherapy, invest in an electric diffuser or wax warmer.11 12
Turning 40 does not have to be scary and sleepless. Sometimes, all it takes is a few tiny tweaks to your lifestyle to sleep like a baby and remain healthy lifelong.
|↑1||Women and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑2||Neubauer, DAVID N. “Sleep problems in the elderly.” American family physician 59, no. 9 (1999): 2551-8.|
|↑3||Aging and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑4||How Is Insomnia Treated?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑5||Guthrie, Katherine A., Joseph C. Larson, Kristine E. Ensrud, Garnet L. Anderson, Janet S. Carpenter, Ellen W. Freeman, Hadine Joffe et al. “Effects of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions on insomnia symptoms and subjective sleep quality in women with hot flashes: A pooled analysis of individual participant data from 4 MsFLASH trials.” Sleep (2017).|
|↑6||Frozi, Júlia, Hudson W. de Carvalho, Gustavo L. Ottoni, Rodrigo A. Cunha, and Diogo R. Lara. “Distinct sensitivity to caffeine-induced insomnia related to age.” Journal of Psychopharmacology (2017): 0269881117722997.|
|↑7||Mooventhan, A., and L. Nivethitha. “Evidence based effects of yoga practice on various health related problems of elderly people: A review.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2017).|
|↑8||Yang, Pei-Yu, Ka-Hou Ho, Hsi-Chung Chen, and Meng-Yueh Chien. “Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review.” Journal of physiotherapy 58, no. 3 (2012): 157-163.|
|↑9||Who Is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑10||How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑11||Perl, Ofer, Anat Arzi, Lee Sela, Lavi Secundo, Yael Holtzman, Perry Samnon, Arie Oksenberg, Noam Sobel, and Ilana S. Hairston. “Odors enhance slow-wave activity in non-rapid eye movement sleep.” Journal of neurophysiology 115, no. 5 (2016): 2294-2302.|
|↑12||Adib-Hajbaghery, Mohsen, and Seyedeh Nesa Mousavi. “The effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people: A clinical trial.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 35 (2017): 109-114.|