40 Myths About Turning 40 That Are Totally True
Trust us, it's about to get a whole lot better.
Some myths about turning 40 are exactly that: myths. Your metabolism won’t shut down completely. You’re still allowed to wear a bikini. And you’re hardly past your prime. But while a lot of the chatter about this milestone decade is absolutely false, plenty of things you’ve heard about turning 40 proliferate because they’re totally true.
For example, your fashion sense is probably going to evolve, your idea of fun is definitely going to change, and you’ll be dreaming of going to bed at 8 p.m. We’ve rounded up more of the myths about turning 40 that are absolutely true. So read on to learn about all the things you have to look forward to in your fifth decade.
You start dreaming of 8 p.m. bedtimes.
In your 20s and 30s, you aren’t likely to hit the sheets before the clock hits midnight. But by the time you turn 40, getting to bed early isn’t just ideal and beneficial, it’s absolutely necessary—and probably driven by biology. One study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences found that hormone fluctuations could be the reason why your bedtime gets earlier as you age.
The study found that the genes in your body that dictate sleep reach peak expression two hours earlier in older adults than in younger adults. But that’s just one reason why your formerly late bedtime has shifted up a few hours. Dealing with kids, colleagues, and other responsibilities probably has something to do with it, too.
You start looking for deeper meaning.
Don’t be surprised if you embrace an “Eat, Pray, Love” mentality once you hit your 40s. As you start getting older, it’s not unusual to begin looking for a deeper meaning. Whether you do that by heading out on a lengthy trek to a foreign monastery or simply by opting for a little meditation along with your yoga is entirely up to you.
Plus, finding your raison d’être could also improve your health. One study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that people who reported having goals and a sense of meaning were less likely to have a weak grip and slow walking speeds, two indicators of declining physical ability and risk factors for disability.
You’ll dress for comfort.
Your main fashion concern in your 20s and 30s was probably to look as good as possible. But once you reach your 40s, your fashion sense becomes more practical. That doesn’t mean you don’t still want to look good, but you’ll start to understand the genius of yoga pants, compression socks, and comfortable walking shoes. Hey, you might even find yourself buying a backpack—even if your 30-year-old self swore you never would.
You’re more excited to leave a party than you are to arrive.
By the time you’re 40, getting dressed up and heading to a party can sometimes feel like more of a chore than a treat. And to be honest, the idea of going home sounds even better. At this point in your life, enjoying a nice bottle of wine with your best friend or partner is way more enjoyable than listening to acquaintances debate politics at a dinner party again.
You prefer to sit down at concerts.
Going to a concert is always fun. But now that you’re in your 40s, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating more toward the assigned-seating section than opting for the floor tickets. As you get older, standing through an entire concert is not only less exciting, but can be downright painful for your knees, hips, and lower back. Plus, you don’t need to be down there with all those sweaty kids anyway.
You have aches in muscles you never knew existed.
Years of athletics, stress, and chasing after kids have likely taken their toll on your body. And unless you’re an athlete, you can expect a natural decline in strength and muscle mass after your 40th birthday. According to one study published in Muscle, Ligaments, and Tendons Journal, you’ll begin losing muscle mass at a rate of about one percent per year.
You’ll also experience a gradual loss of collagen and blood flow throughout the body, as well as less elasticity in your tendons—all of which leads to aches and pains in places you were previously unaware of.
Your sex will start to change.
Your sex life will likely change, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. According to research by Debby Herbenick, PhD, a sex researcher and professor of human sexuality at Indiana University, orgasms become easier for many people to achieve as they get older.
“While 61 percent of women aged 18 to 24 experienced orgasm the last time they had sex … about 70 percent in their 40s and 50s,” she told the Daily Mail. Herbenick attributes the increased satisfaction to the higher levels of sexual experience and confidence women have in their 40s.
Your skin will start showing its years.
No matter what your skin type, you’re bound to notice more signs of aging in this decade than ever before. Caucasian women typically start to see fine lines, brown spots, broken capillaries, and a decline in elasticity around their late 30s, while black women typically notice those things about 10 years later, Dr. Michelle Yagoda, a facial plastic surgeon, told Marie Claire.
But that’s not something you should feel the need to hide. Embrace those laugh lines and crows feet; there’s even something to be said for the deep grooves and worry lines. They’re all proof of just how much you’ve life you’ve lived.
You’re excited about putting money into your savings account.
When you’re in your 20s and are starting to make your own money, nothing is as satisfying as spending your hard-earned cash on something luxurious. But as your 40th birthday comes and goes, you’ll find yourself in a place in life where having money in the bank feels just as great. Saving money for an emergency fund, a vacation, or a wealthy retirement is just as exciting as handing it over for something shiny and new.
Your circle of friends evolves.
Call it a myth all you want, but now that you’re in your 40s, you probably won’t want to hang out with the same squad you partied with in your 20s and 30s. Instead, you’ll probably enjoy wine nights and afternoon coffee dates with friends who you have great conversations with.
Your idea of a perfect date night is staying in.
Spending the night (and maybe even part of the early morning) dancing at a sweaty, packed club will be less and less appealing as you get older. And while taking a long walk on the beach still sounds nice, nothing is as awesome as staying in to watch an entire season of your favorite new show on Netflix—especially if you have a special someone to watch it with.
You’ll want to spend your weekends at Home Depot.
In 2003’s Old School, Will Ferrell’s character describes his weekend plans with his wife, saying, “Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”
While it was supposed to be a joke about how he was settling into a drab married life, anyone in their 40s who hears that likely thinks it does indeed sound like a pretty nice Saturday.
You’ll start finding more grey hairs.
While some people notice white hair in their 30s and others won’t notice greys until their 50s, most people start sporting a salt and pepper look in their 40s.
There’s actually a “50-50-50” rule of thumb used by dermatologists: By 50 years old, 50 percent of the population has at least 50 percent grey hair. (Although one study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that it’s probably more like six to 23 percent of the population that’s 50 percent grey by 50.) Either way, you’ll definitely be noticing more stray whites than you did before.
You’ll have a pickier palate.
It’s no myth that you’ll start to have a pickier palate as you get older. And that’s because, by the time you’re 40, fewer new taste buds grow in to replace the ones you lose, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. With fewer buds, we can’t taste our food as much and certain foods won’t please our palates as they once did. This could also explain why you’re feeling the urge to sprinkle your food with more salt and pepper than usual.
You’ll seek out different kinds of vacations.
Heading to the beach for spring break was fine in your college years. However, now that you’re in your 40s, you’re more likely to enjoy a vacation in the countryside or to go on a multi-island cruise than you are to head to Cancun.
And that’s not because you’re doomed to be boring now that you’re 40. Actually, you’re just far too cultured and your tastes are far too refined to get any sort of benefit from hanging out with a bunch of kids.
Your fashion sense will evolve.
While you won’t need to consciously overhaul your wardrobe after your 40th birthday, you’ll likely notice that your fashion sense changes in even the subtlest of ways. That could mean anything from shopping at entirely different stores to simply adopting a more bold appreciation for accessories.
You’ll experience hair loss.
Hair loss can begin at any point in adulthood, but according to Dr. Alan J. Bauman, a hair restoration physician and founder of Bauman Medical, it increases as you get older. He notes that about 30 percent of people will experience it in their 30s, 40 percent in their 40s, and so on.
You’ll have a mid-life crisis.
It may be the ultimate cliché, but once your 30s are over, you’re at risk of making what might otherwise seem like a silly decision merely based on the fact that you want to feel young again. Whether it’s dropping a fortune on a brand new sports car or covering yourself in head-to-toe tattoos, it’s hard to resist the mid-life crisis.
One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development found that between the ages of 40 and 49, 46 percent of men and 59 percent of women reported a “crisis episode.” The most common catalysts for crises included divorce, breakups, debt, and other financial difficulties.
Your memory gets spotty.
By the time you’re in your 40s, you may not have the super sharp memory of your youth—and that’s because your 4os bring a fundamental change in how your brain stores and retrieves memories.
According to Natasha Raj, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University, this shift has “detrimental effects on day-to-day functions that place emphasis on memory for details, such as where you parked your car or when you took your prescriptions.”
You’ll start referring to your pets as children.
Pets are always beloved members of the family, but they generally have their own spot in the pecking order. However, by the time you hit your 40s, whether you’re a parent or not, you may start getting into the habit of referring to your fur babies as your children.
You’ll have a harder time losing weight.
As you get older, you’ll likely notice a reduced metabolism and experience changes in hormones, both of which make it harder to lose weight. Decreased muscle mass also has something to do with it. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the muscle loss you experience as you age means fewer calories burned.
“Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, which means the less you have, the lower your metabolism and the less calories you burn all day long,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and certified sports nutritionist. “This is one reason it is so imperative that people engage in strength training as they age, to preserve this valuable muscle and prevent their metabolisms from slowing down.”
You’ll start to grow hair in weird places.
While you might start to lose the hair on your head, fuzz may instead begin popping up in other seemingly random parts of your body. If you’re a man, your nose hair might get bushier and ear hair may grow, too. Women, on the other hand, may suddenly find themselves growing a slight mustache where there never was one before. This has to do with changes in hormones—especially in women, who will see a decrease in estrogen while testosterone runs unchecked.
Your hangovers will last longer.
Gone are the days of waking up groggy after a night out and then somehow getting on with your day. And while the scientific jury is still out as to why hangovers worsen with age (the community tends to focus more on the health effects of alcohol than on the hangovers it leaves us with), it’s well established that this is no myth. The suspicion is it has to do with liver function, which is proven to decrease as you age.
“All we really have is the unfortunate collective experience of millions or billions of people worldwide that, basically, confirms that hangovers [stink],” psychiatrist Mark Willenbring, M.D., told Self. “Best to avoid them.”
You’d rather brag about getting a good deal than flaunt expensive purchases.
As you head into your 40s, the days of wanting to flaunt your expensive shoes may very well be replaced with feeling fully satisfied by scoring a great deal. Your newfound frugality could be due to a fundamental shift in the way you view money. For example, one report by United Income found that adults become less optimistic about the economy, stock market performance, and their financial health as they age.
You don’t sleep as well as you used to.
While you may feel like you need more sleep in your 40s than you did in your 20s and 30s, you might have more trouble getting it as you age. According to a poll from the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of older adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week. That could be due to anything from physical pains that keep you awake to waking up more frequently in the middle of the night to hit the bathroom.
You’re less likely to take unnecessary risks.
Unless you’re a professional skydiver or a member of a venomous snake-handling club—i.e. you truly love death-tempting hobbies—chances are that adrenaline-pumping activities will become less appealing as you get older.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the propensity to take risks decreases over the course of your lifespan, especially after age 30. So, when you get to your 40s, your urge to try bungee jumping will all but disappear and riding that new roller coaster just isn’t your idea of fun anymore.
You’ll take more time to smell the roses.
By the time you turn 40, you’ll really start to realize how quickly moments can pass you by. As a result, you’ll be more likely to try to slow things down a little, so you can take your time enjoying experiences and appreciating every moment.
You’ll have a clearer understanding of what you want in relationships.
You’ll be excited to hear that this one is not a myth. Unlike your 20s and 30s, by the time you’re 40 you have plenty of experience in relationships and know exactly what you want—and how to express that to potential partners. “When a person starts dating after 40, they have a better idea of what they want. This streamlines the whole process,” says Patrick Kenger, founder of Pivot, an image consultancy for men.
Whether you’d like to settle down or would rather continue to play the field, you’re more likely to be upfront about those wants and needs than to settle for whatever comes your way.
You think songs from when you were young are better than today’s music.
It’s hard not to indulge in nostalgia when a tune from your teenage years comes on the radio. And while you understand that contemporary bands are just trying to push boundaries and make a name for themselves, it just doesn’t jive with the old-school music you grew up with.
In fact, “researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers more tightly than anything we’ll hear as adults—a connection that doesn’t weaken as we age,” according to Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern.
You’d rather wake up early than sleep in.
Sleeping in is great on occasion and definitely something you should enjoy when you have the chance. But by the time you hit 40, you’ll find yourself more inclined to get up and at ’em earlier in the morning in order to take advantage of as many hours of the day as you can. In fact, Harvard research suggests that waking up earlier as you get older is a natural part of the aging process, and is influenced by changes to your internal clock.
You’ll develop a refined taste in alcohol.
By the time you turn 40, you’ll be eager to leave the vodka coolers and cheap beer behind, instead opting for a fine wine or an aged whiskey. Perhaps you’ll even be the kind of person who installs a fancy wine cellar in their home to show off their impressive collection.
You’ll worry more.
After spending your 20s and 30s establishing social relationships and making your way up the ladder career-wise, the added responsibilities both at home and at work can start to take a toll by the time you’re in your 40s. According to a survey from Selftrade, people who are older are more likely to struggle with stress than those who are younger. One study from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics even found that the most stressful time in life is between the ages of 45 and 54.
You’ll give up late-night takeout.
You may have been able to eat whatever you wanted whenever you wanted throughout your 20s and 30s, but that certainly won’t be the same past your 40th birthday. Case in point: You’ll want to give up late-night take-out as you get older, not only because you’ll want to eat healthier, but because it’ll make you feel better now and in the long run.
Certain body parts will start drooping.
Thanks to fluctuations in weight, years of good use, and the effects of gravity, you might notice various body parts start to droop around your 40th birthday. And while it may be jarring to have neck skin hanging out, you can either embrace it as another part of the aging process or try one of the various creams and treatments to try and tighten things up.
You’ll finally understand jazz.
While you may always have been a fan of pop music or a hard-rock listener, your musical vibe might change when your 40s come around—and that includes your appreciation for genres like jazz. If you didn’t care for—or understand—jazz earlier in life, then by the time you’re 40, you might finally appreciate the saucy tones and snazzy beats.
In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology even supports this scientifically. “For many this life stage is frequently exhausted by work and family, and there is a requirement for relaxing, emotive music for those rare down times,” the researchers noted.
Your mortality will kick in.
Not to be too morbid, but by the time you’re 40, you’ll start to notice that plenty of years have passed and that death doesn’t seem as far away as it once did. And while your imminent end isn’t looming right around the corner, you’ll be more aware of the fact that you won’t be around forever.
You’ll feel like you’re on top of things.
While you may not have all of life’s mysteries figured out by the time you turn 40, you pretty much know what you need to know to be a functioning adult and are (hopefully) on top of your responsibilities. Savings account, mortgage payments, retirement fund, and all of the other odds and ends that require your attention are totally under your control. High five!
You won’t be able to stay awake for an entire movie.
It may be a bit of a joke that those over 40 can’t stay awake for an entire movie, but it’s a joke based on truth. Frankly, plenty of people in midlife notoriously fall asleep five minutes after a movie starts—and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, you’re busy nowadays. If you happen to be one of those people who can’t help but snooze through the story, just try not to snore during the exciting parts.
You won’t understand technology.
You might think it’s a myth that as soon as you turn 40 you’ll have no idea what the kids are doing with their iPhones. But seriously, what are those kids doing with their iPhones? It seems like every day there’s a new app that you’ve never heard of. There’s Snapchat, WhatsApp, and look, there’s no telling what TikTok even is. Why can’t everybody just stick to Facebook?
You’ll begin to become unabashedly yourself.
As you get older, you’ll start to feel more confident in yourself and your abilities. And with that comes the desire and the determination to fully embrace your true nature and show the world who you really are without a care as to what people may think. And for more advice for your 40s, check out Over 40? Here’s All of the Terrible Life Advice You Should Start Ignoring.
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