Midlife: The Sleep Connection

The health benefits of good sleep habits have gained traction in recent years, and sleep is now considered to be a cornerstone of maintaining good health, along with nutrition and physical activity. Here’s your sleep 101

Effects of sleep deprivation might be pretty obvious to most people – we’ve all experienced jet-lag, or the utter madness of baby-induced sleep deprivation. But what does THE SCIENCE tell us?

  • Hormonal down-regulation can lead to imbalance in the hunger and satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) causing weight gain. 
  • Decreased functional physical performance and motivation to exercise.
  • Increased cardiovascular risk (though not in the same league as smoking!)
  • Affects blood sugar and therefore over time, insulin sensitivity, putting you at higher risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Impairs immune function.
  • Increases inflammation – affecting gut health.
  • Impairs cognitive function – all the sleep-deprived new parents say “Duh!”

So, I have formulated my own POWER DOWN ACTION PLAN. I can’t do all the things, so I have prioritised the ones that I think will make the most difference to me personally:

  1. NO SCREENS IN THE BEDROOM & TRY TO TURN OFF LAPTOPS AND MOBILE PHONE SCREEN A COUPLE OF HOURS BEFORE BED.
  2. NO CAFFEINE AFTER 3PM
  3. GETTING TO MY BED NO LATER THAN 10.30
Woman sleeping in bed

Other things that you could consider are how alcohol affects your sleep; making sure you get adequate activity into your day, avoid long daytime naps, ensure you are properly hydrated throughout the day so that you are not waking with thirst in the night time. Set up your bedroom so it feels tidy and calm, and open the window to let some fresh air in, maybe treat yourself to a luxurious pillow mist or essential oil. Whatever you do, try to establish a consistent bedtime routine, and ditto waking time.

Try different things and see what works for you. My evening Pilates clients report that they sleep really well after the class, which always ends with a deep relaxation that is so calming and nourishing – even for me, and I’m the one delivering it!