Midlife brings challenges with stress, sleep and happiness

Soomi Lee is an assistant professor of aging studies at the University of South Florida. As such, she has been studying midlife, especially how people in this life stage experience sleep and stress.

Nobody knows for sure when midlife begins and when it ends, however, most people believe it starts around 44 and ends by age 60 — the prime audience for Forward From 50.

In an article she wrote for The Conversation, Soomi explained that midlife is a time when individuals occupy the greatest number of social roles, typically around four key roles:

  • Paid worker or homemaker
  • Spouse or partner
  • Parent
  • Adult child

Although having multiple roles may provide more opportunities to build resources such as income, self-esteem, relationships and success, people in midlife must also divide their time and energy across those roles, she explained.

Slower metabolism, weight gain and hormonal changes are common and can lead to emotional ups and downs. Men in midlife are more likely than younger men and women to develop sleep apnea, she added.

“All these factors are closely related to sleep, so it’s no surprise to find poor sleep among midlife adults,” Soomi wrote. “Sleeping less than six hours a night, getting poor-quality sleep and other sleep issues are prevalent.”

It’s a vicious circle that leads to cascading health problems. Poor sleep contributes to stress, while stress can negatively impact quality sleep.

“Both sleep and stress affect emotions, so you might expect low levels of happiness in midlife. Fewer people are happy during midlife than older and younger groups,” she explained.

Self-care during midlife is especially important, despite the busy schedules brought on by a greater number of roles,” Soomi wrote. “It’s hard to overemphasize the value of getting enough sleep and managing stress. Doing these things could help individuals turn a ‘midlife crisis’ into ‘midlife potential.'”

The full story is available at The Conversation.