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Have you been putting off sleeping properly until the kids settle into school, high school, university… and now it’s been decades since a good night of rest? Skimping on sleep in your youth is one thing, but I’m here to tell you why getting sleep in your 40s is a non-negotiable if you want to feel healthy, balanced and sane.

How skimping sleep in your 40s leads to disaster

There are a lot of ways poor sleep adds up to feeling crummy, so let’s go over the most important ones.

Poor sleep equals stress

You might not think of a bad night of sleep being a form of stress, but it is. Whether you don’t sleep for long enough or if it’s disrupted and broken, it’s a physical stressor on the body. As a result, your body starts to produce more stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline.

This is a bad thing at any age. But when we’re talking poor sleep in your 40s, we’re also dealing with the hormonal changes of perimenopause. Progesterone decreases as part of perimenopause, and this lowers your stress resilience.

Of course, women in their 40s are some of the busiest and most stressed people on the planet! The average perimenopausal woman is under-nourished, juggling multiple responsibilities, carrying the mental load at home and at work… it is typically the busiest phase of their life! So it’s the time that you likely need stress resilience more than ever.

The more sleep you lose out on, the more that gets added to your stress load. This makes you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, and it can also equal more sweats and flushes as well!

Sleep loss and the brain

Feeling foggy and can’t even remember what you ate for breakfast? Sleep deprivation can play a massive role in cognitive symptoms such as brain fog and poor memory.

When you sleep, your brain gets a chance to rest, reboot and consolidate what happened throughout the day. It’s also when the waste gets drained out of the brain and nervous system and into the lymphatic system. So if you aren’t sleeping well, you get a back-up of waste products that leave you feeling fuzzy.

Another common side effect of poor sleep is increased anxiety. You may have already noticed more anxiety creep in over your 40s, which is thanks to the decrease in progesterone.

The less you sleep, the less melatonin you produce. In case you didn’t know, melatonin is a potent antioxidant that protects the body from ageing – so poor sleep can make you age far more rapidly on the inside and out!

Poor sleep and body weight

Getting enough sleep in your 40s is critical if you want to maintain or even lose weight, because sleep has some huge impacts on your body’s energy balance.

Poor sleep leads to:

  • Increased appetite and cravings
  • Higher kilojoule consumption
  • Increased insulin resistance (which makes your body cling to fat stores)
  • Lower production of growth hormone (slower metabolism & more belly fat!)

In your 40s, insulin resistance is even more of a problem because your fluctuating oestrogen levels make you more susceptible to insulin issues. You’ll crave those instant energy foods (think chips, crackers, pasta, lollies, ice cream) & stimulants (chocolate, caffeine) when your body is least able to deal with them. All of this is a perfect storm for weight gain, abdominal fat and a higher risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and metabolic syndrome.

Hormones and sleep

We’ve already touched on a few ways that poor sleep throws off your hormone balance. But just to have it all listed in one spot, a lack of sleep can:

  • Increase production of stress hormones
  • Alter the ratio between oestrogen and progesterone
  • Suppress your thyroid function and conversion
  • Increase your hunger hormones
  • Lower growth hormone levels
  • Throw off your glucose and insulin levels and increase insulin resistance

In fact, there isn’t a single hormone in the body that goes unscathed when you’re deprived of sleep!

Sleep and immune function

Finally, let’s look at how your immune system deals with lack of sleep (spoiler alert: not very well at all!)

Sleep deprivation reduces your immune function, which leads to more frequent infections and illness overall. But it can also mean slower wound healing and recovery from illness (think a common cold that ends up lingering for 2+ weeks)

The other side of this is autoimmune disease. Lack of sleep feeds into inflammation as well as overall dysfunction of the immune system, increasing your risk of autoimmune disease. If you already have an autoimmune condition, you’re far more likely to see your symptoms flare up.

How much should you sleep in your 40s?

Ideally, we want to be getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting less than that regularly falls into the territory of partial sleep deprivation.

However, more sleep isn’t necessarily better – you may feel more groggy and lethargic, and your metabolism will be a bit slower as you’re resting more hours. If you need to sleep more than about 10 hours per day, it’s worth investigating why your body is demanding so much!

We also need to make sure that those hours are quality hours. There’s no point in being in bed 9 hours a night but you take 3 hours to fall asleep, wake up at every little sound or get up to wee every hour on the hour! The goal in terms of quality is:

  • Take less than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • Minimal to no waking during the night (unless a burglar or possum wakes you, of course!)
  • Waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead

Finding it impossible to get the sleep that you need?

Sleep in your 40s can be tough, thanks to the hormonal shifts that make a good night of rest seem like, well, a dream. But the good news is that there are ways that we can rebalance those hormones and welcome back 7-9 hours of deep, restful sleep again!

Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how you can get the rest that your body and mind need and feel energised again.