Welcome to the club! You are not alone.
Yes, a lot of us during midlife have one thing in common amongst other, issues with getting quality sleep in midlife. We are all having the same problem of “Sleep deficiency” to some extent. We do follow the clock in order to take care of our chores, in order to go to work, drop kids to school, get the presentation ready for that meeting, make it on time for a movie or a dinner date and what not.
However, not all of us might be taking care of our body clocks as we should. We might have that important email to address, that school dress to iron, that suit to dry clean, that book to finish, that TV series to complete, that hobby project to tinker, that training to finish, or anything else that might keep us busy past the normal sleep time.
Unfortunately, some of us may also have a sleep disorder that would prevent us to get enough sleep or make us sleep or wake up at wrong times or even not get the kind of sleep that our body might require to recoup and recover.
Whatever the cause or the situation may be, the fact remains that a human body requires a specific amount of REM ( rapid eye movement ) and Non-REM sleep to function properly. Just as water and oxygen are crucial for a human body, so is the sleep as in the required number of cycles of REM and Non-REM sleep.
Symptoms of sleep-related problems
It is a human tendency to feel that we are in control at all the times and about all the things that we are concerned with. However, contrary to a popular belief – we cannot train our bodies to sleep less and get on without any negative effects due to lack of sleep. How much is “enough” quality sleep in midlife may differ from person to person but certainly the average amount of sleep recommended based on the age and the physical activities of an individual is something that can be generalised and is recommended by the medical practitioners around the world.
One may not be getting the recommended, required vital sleep if any of the below mentioned stands true :
- A possibility of dozing off or just feeling sleepy during a meeting, a movie, a presentation, while driving a car for an hour or more.
- An evident and visible decline in cognitive abilities, difficulty in focusing, learning, solving problems, frequently forgetting things, missing events, irritable and angry approach to a change in the situation.
Unless there is already a fitness tracker that is tracking your routine, the best option in the first place would be to track the sleep patterns and find out the status using a sleep tracker or fitness tracking device or app. The first step towards solving a problem is always to analyse and find the problem.
Sleep Issues faced by people in Midlife
People getting less than 7 hours of sleep are more likely to feel tired during the day and may resort to drinking caffeinated drinks or sugary energy drinks to pull them through, this increases the risk of diabetes. This pattern may eventually affect overall health in a negative way. People also gain weight due to irregular sleeping patterns and also suffer from slow metabolism which potentially may develop into them being obese.
It is also seen based on the medical statistics that people who do not get enough sleep generally develop a poor immunity level and are prone to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. The brain having to attend to everything that we subject it to without the much needed regenerative sleep then starts to show signs of fatigue, irritation and crankiness. This can also aid to people feeling restless, irritable, unsocial and eventually end up suffering from depression. Although it is not proven to be a certainty, long term sleep deprivation or irregular sleeping patterns can slowly and gradually push people towards a decline in cognitive abilities and developing dementia.
Why Quality sleep is important in midlife?
An adequate amount of quality sleep in midlife for every individual can help maintain good health and wellbeing. It helps the healthy cognitive functions and emotional wellbeing. It improves our attention, learning, creativity, problem-solving and ability to remember information/memory.
A good night sleep with natural cycles of shallow and deep sleep helps in healing and repairs of our heart and blood vessels. It helps us fight obesity by maintaining the metabolism by balancing the hormones that control our hunger. It also helps to maintain the blood sugar by making our body effectively reacting to the hormone such as insulin which is very crucial in controlling our blood glucose levels. Quality sleep also releases several body hormones which are vital to the process of repairs of cells and tissues of our body.
Not just that, quality sleep in midlife also affects fertility and can help women, especially who are trying to conceive.
Finally, it also maintains and boosts our immunity by making us resilient to common infections.
What could potentially be your reason for not getting adequate quality sleep? It could be one of these :
- The ideology that sleeping is a waste of time and we can get away with sleeping 4 to 6 hours in the routine, catching up during weekends.
- An intentional approach of giving low priority to sleep as compared to the profession, entertainment and academic pursuits.
- Circumstantial family obligations and demands of employment, job, shift work.
- Medical conditions, diseases and imbalance in body hormones.
- Unhealthy lifestyle, irregular eating habits along with consumption of alcohol, caffeinated drinks and stimulating drinks at times having an adverse effect on body clock.
Here is what you can do to generally improve the quality of sleep in midlife.
Things that can be done to improve sleeping habits :
- Learn about healthy lifestyle and diet to bring subtle changes to improve your sleeping habits
- Creating and keeping a routine of sleeping, waking up, physical exercise and eating.
- Creating a relaxing environment with dim lights and soothing music in your bedroom.
- Too bright an environment in your living room or kitchen can adversely affect your body clock.
- Stop checking that message or email 30 to 45 minutes before your sleep time.
- Eating a healthy and light dinner instead of a heavy meal, also do not eat 1 hour before your sleep time.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol, caffeinated drinks and stimulants a couple of hours before your sleep time.
Things that can be consumed to help your mind & body relax and help you to sleep :
- Cup of chamomile, mint, green tea ( without caffeine )
- Warm milk ( Dairy alternatives like Oat Milk or Soya Milk in case of intolerance ) with a little bit of honey.
- Consumption of bananas, oranges, kiwi, berries, raisins can help to induce a good night sleep as some of them contain melatonin and some of them are rich in antioxidants. Melatonin is a hormone that instructs the body and the nervous system to prepare for sleep routine as per the body clock, eating fruits with melatonin is equivalent of topping up the low levels within your body.
Type of clothes to wear at night time :
- Clothes which are loose, like pyjamas and comfy T-Shirts help body temperature cool down as well as making us feel relaxed.
- Light clothes during warm weather and thin socks during cold weather helps our body to regulate its temperature easily, helping you to relax and get that quality sleep.
Environment / Temperature / humidity :
- Subtle and gentle light around us impacts our brain as it influences our sleep cycle by releasing the “Go to Bed” hormones ( melatonin ). Inventors and corporations have even gone to the lengths of manufacturing special lamps and bulbs emitting lights that do not disturb the levels of melatonin in your body while they are turned on in the evening.
- Peaceful colours around you including colours for the bedsheets and pillow covers help induce the feeling of relaxation and tranquillity.
- Air circulation, temperature and humidity in the bedroom is very crucial as it can affect the body’s attempt to cool down. If your brain and body are working overtime to bring its temperature down then it will certainly have an adverse effect on your sleep quality.
- Sound plays an important part since our brain is always active and listening to sounds around us. Isn’t it the case ? you have woken up due to someone snoring around you or perhaps due to kids making noise, or even people walking and moving on the floor above yours, haven’t you? Too silent or too noisy in either case the brain gets stimuli and starts processing and analysing sound patterns around you. EarPlugs do help, even the sound machines producing either the white noise or the relaxing music can help you get that sound sleep to fight against the midlife sleep problems.
- Just as the brain is always active and processing the sounds around us, it also does process and analyses the smell since scents or a particular type of fragrance has the potential to work as a stimulant and can render your nervous system alert or in a relaxed state. Make sure that the bedroom or the area where you intend to sleep is clean and is not with a foul smell. Once past that hurdle, aromatherapy is known to have a soothing effect on our nervous system and blood pressure. Lavender, chamomile is the most commonly used fragrances around the world for creating a tranquil and relaxing environment. For those who may suffer from the stuffy nose may want to keep their windows ajar a bit or even use a humidifier as the heating system tends to make the air dry. Sometimes there might even be a need for a dehumidifier in case there is too much moisture in the air. Humid air or too much humidity is known to have an adverse effect on people suffering from asthma.
- Finally, Just as loose and light clothes make us feel relaxed the same effect is achievable by using an appropriate pillow and pillow covers along with the bed sheets and the duvet. Touch/Feel is another of our senses that is always active, surely we have heard stories of people waking up to pinching and tickle. Making sure that the material that is used for our bedding is not synthetic polyester since it is not considered to be a breathable material. Breathable material like cotton, linen and silk are best-preferred options when it comes to bedding material.
Other than the above-mentioned tips there are quite a few things that can help to achieve the goal of a good night sleep by mitigating common issues that may have an undesirable effect on our sleep routines as well as other health conditions.
Remember, Your identity is based on your cognitive abilities and memories and one of the most terrible long term side effects of “Sleep deficiency” is its link to “Memory / Cognitive loss” and “Dementia”.
If you have a slightest of discomfort or facing issues with having a sound sleep then you must take it seriously. Following the simple tips mentioned in this article along with investing in things that might help to get that quality sleep in midlife will certainly help in adding life to your years.