Why middle-aged adults struggle with sleep deprivation

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The middle-aged sleep crisis is booming more than ever, according to multiple research studies.

Studies show that nearly 40% of people born in the 1950s and 1960s fail to get enough sleep. People are struggling to fall asleep and also stay asleep throughout the night. That’s nearly 10% higher levels of insomnia symptoms than those in older age groups. In particular, men born in the 60s are sleeping particularly worse than previous generations.

Dr. Connor Sheehan, an Associate Professor from ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, explained why people in this age group aren’t catching enough Z’s.

“I’ve always been interested in how cohort processings, like how different generations act differently, behave differently,” Dr. Sheehan said. “With my co-author, who studies mid-life health, we wanted to see if they are actually sleeping differently. Are we seeing decade-based differences in the sleeping patterns?”

Dr. Sheehan said they believe there to be three main driving factors to these findings. First, is that this group has been disproportionately impacted by the great recession. He said there are specific stressors related to the recession that negatively influence people born in that cohort.

Second, is that people born in the 1960s are increasingly involved in caregiving. They’re not only taking care of their older adult parents, but they are taking care of their children and helping them get launched into adulthood.

The third factor is cell phone usage. Constant scrolling with a bright screen in your face and bringing work to bed doesn’t allow for relaxing and winding down before bed. Dr. Sheehan advised it’s best to not sleep with your phone in your bedroom and to keep it in another room. He stated if your phone is in your room, you will be prone to checking notifications when they come in or will want to scroll through stressful emails. Many also tend to fall asleep while scrolling through social media or apps such as TikTok.

Dr. Connor Sheehan; Associate Professor, ASU's T. Denny School of Social and Family Dynamics

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