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Answers to Your Over-40 Sleep Problems (And What You Can Do to Get More Sleep)

By Dr. Shawna Dingmansleep

I was always a pretty good sleeper until I had kids. Three kids over a 9-year span resulted in about 15 years of poor, broken sleep as we dealt with the usual kid issues of feeding, teething, illness and bad dreams.

I erroneously thought that by the time my kids were all old enough to sleep well through the night, I would go back to getting 8 straight hours myself.

Apparently no one told me that when you hit your 40’s, sleep is a whole new challenge to overcome.

Many people experience some form of insomnia after the age of 40. Women are much more affected than men due to the complicating factor of declining female hormones. In order to understand why we DON’T sleep, let me give you the Cole’s notes of how we DO sleep.

Sleep is made possible through a delicate balance of specific hormones in your body. The secretion of melatonin and growth hormone in the brain activate the need to sleep. Melatonin is released from the pineal gland in the brain in response to waning sunlight. As it gets dark, your body knows it’s time to wind down and rest thanks to melatonin.

Growth hormone also plays a role because its secretion indicates that your body is growing bone and muscle tissue. Sleep helps growth, so growth hormone is a trigger for sleep. That’s why babies and teenagers sleep so much; they are going through tremendous growth changes both physically and cognitively.

Cortisol is another key player. It does the opposite of melatonin. Cortisol is considered a stress hormone, and it is released as daylight increases to signal your body to get ready for the many needs of the coming day. It suppresses melatonin production so you can wake up and be alert through your day.

In short, increased cortisol shuts down melatonin and turns off sleepiness. Decreasing cortisol levels (which is supposed to happen in response to decreasing sunlight) triggers melatonin to be released causing sleep.

Anything that disrupts this balance will wreak havoc with your sleep.

The Role of Hormones Over Age 40

The unique challenge women in particular have with sleep over age 40 is mainly due to changes that begin with female hormones.

Both estrogen and progesterone encourage sleep. As women enter into peri-menopause (the time before menopause when our bodies begin to shift gears) and then eventually menopause, both estrogen and progesterone decline.

This decline in female hormone levels contributes to trouble with deep and consistent sleep.

Progesterone is also considered an anxiolytic hormone, which means it helps us deal with anxiety and stress. Declining progesterone levels mean we lose some of the help we get from our hormones in dealing with life’s many stressors. As you know, this can make sleep very difficult.

Added to this is the fact that adults in their 40’s and beyond are now considered “the sandwich generation”. That means we are not only still caring for children living with us, but we are often caring for aging and ailing parents.

I make reference to the sandwich generation because, being part of it myself, I can attest to the added demands this creates in our lives. At a time when we could really use some extra sleep and stress reduction, the change in hormones and increased stress from lifestyle seem to do just the opposite.

So How Do We Get More Sleep?

There are many things we can do to help increase the amount and quality of our sleep. We have created an ebook just for you called Your Perfect Night‘s Sleep (10 Steps to Getting the Sleep You Dream Of). This ebook addresses (Perfect Night Sleep Kit) as many factors as possible and gives 10 simple strategies for getting better Z’s.

The more strategies you implement, the more likely you are to improve your sleep.

Click Perfect Night Sleep Kit to get your free download of Your Perfect Nights Sleep (10 Steps to Getting the Sleep You Dream Of) right now .

Here’s to a better night’s sleep…tonight!

P.S. Let us know which strategies you’re going to try first – we’d love to hear what’s working for you!

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