For adults, the importance and impact of getting quality sleep comes to a head when you have your first baby and sleep deprivation becomes a part of your life. Sleep changes as you age and while new parents certainly covet a good night’s rest, thankfully, more and more adults in all stages of life are starting to pay much more attention to sleep, how important it is for overall health, and how it changes as we age.
Sleep is a dynamic process that involves your circadian rhythm, hormones, breathing, and circulation, all of which have a deep impact on how well you sleep, when you sleep and your sleep patterns. From everyday life stresses to illness and general aging, sleep profoundly impacts every aspect of your life and it’s important to learn how to navigate sleep challenges that can pop up as we age.
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When you recognize what challenges may be causing you to lose sleep, you’ll be able to make changes or seek support to help get your sleep back on track. At every age, sleep is an important pillar of health and should be managed and prioritized just as you would physical activity and nutrition.
Sleeping Through Your 20s, 30s And 40s
While sleep disturbances can certainly vary on an individual basis, there are some common sleep challenges that tend to surface in each stage of life.
Sleep In Your 20s
When you’re in your early twenties, sleep is probably one of the last things you think about. Coming out of college or university, where the sleep culture promotes all-nighters and erratic napping, most young adults underestimate how much their poor sleep habits influence the rest of their life.
Interestingly though, the biggest sleep change that happens during this decade is a change in your circadian rhythms. When it comes to teen sleep, sleep patterns include being up late at night and struggling with early mornings However, sometime in your mid-20s, you’ll experience a bio rhythm shift that will help you develop the sleep patterns you’ll have for the rest of your life. Some people start to be morning people, some people will still prefer evening hours, others will find themselves an easy mix of both.
As you move through your 20s, the eventual realization sets in that your sleep deprivation cycle does not leave you feeling healthy or full of energy. We know how deeply sleep deprivation effects cognitive function, mood and emotional regulation, and as career aspirations become more important, the desire for a good night’s sleep also becomes more important.
Sleep In Your 30s
Some people describe your 30s as a marathon. There are many life changes taking place and you’re most likely trying to balance work, buying a home, family and friends – all of which seem to be in overdrive and demand your attention. All of these driving factors can have a major impact on sleep and sleep cycles which actually makes it an ideal time to identify the sleep routine and sleep habits that work for your specific needs.
Many women go through pregnancy in their 30s which means they’ll likely deal with sleeplessness thanks to intensely shifting hormones. Pregnant women are at significantly higher risk for developing sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome and if you don’t manage these conditions during pregnancy, they can stick with you long term.
During this decade, your sleep cycles will start to include less deep sleep, and you’ll spend more time in the lighter stages of non-REM sleep. In fact, research indicates that we lose deep sleep at a rate of about 2% a decade, starting in your 30s and lasting up until about age 60. You may notice you start to experience more restlessness, waking more easily and often at night, and feeling less refreshed in the morning. It’s an excellent time to do a sleep audit and to do some work around improving your sleep environment.
Sleep In Your 40s
Many people in their 40s report going to bed exhausted but still have trouble falling asleep. Other common complaints include waking once or twice a night (bathroom trips typically increase in frequency), or early wakings and not being able to go back to sleep.
In addition to a busy lifestyle that spills over from your 30s, there are additional biological changes that also makes sleep more challenging. For both men and women, hormones that promote healthy sleep are on the decline. At the same time, sleep-disrupting hormones, such as cortisol, are often spiking, thanks to stress and an ongoing lack of sleep.
During these years, sleeplessness can take a particular toll on weight gain and metabolic health, in both men and women. The combination of biological changes and crowded daily schedules isn’t conducive to quality sleep or regular exercise, both of which have a negative impact on sleep and weight gain.
Take An Active Role In Your Sleep Health
Not getting the sleep you need and feeling exhausted is stressful. Especially if you want to sleep better, but just don’t know what will help or where to start. The good news is that even as your hormones and your bio rhythms start to shift as you age, there is plenty that you can do to help keep your sleep on track. From natural supplements, to managing your nutrition to promote healthy sleep or learning more about breathing techniques that help you sleep, it all starts with your commitment to prioritize getting the sleep you need. For more tips and support, be sure to explore our adult sleep resources.