It’s National Sleep Awareness Week which brings me to a confession: I have been getting too little sleep and gaining weight because of it. Curses Netflix and your plethora of good British shows! And now I want to watch Blazing Saddles again with Madeline Kahn.
As a fitness professional and certified Functional Aging Specialist, I know that more sleep leads to a healthier weight, fresher skin, more creativity, better memory, and less snapping at my husband. Ooops. (Click here to read how to Sleep Your Way to A Better Brain and Body). But the siren call to finish just a wee bit more work, answer one more email, and load the dishwasher before settling in for some late night entertainment gets me every time.
What about you? How are your sleep habits? Did you know that an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year, according to researcher Dr. Michael Sivak. Part of that is the 200 -2,000 fewer calories you’ll take in during that hour you’re now asleep, and part of that is the relationship between the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Those two appetite regulating hormones are taunting rascals. Being awake too long can throw them into flux, stimulating your appetite and inhibiting your ability to make good food choices. More than 35 percent of American adults are obese; more than 28 percent sleep less than six hours a night, and the authors of a 15-year study found these two to be correlated.
In our post about the 3 stealth saboteurs of weight loss, we mentioned how less than 6 hours of sleep can be correlated with weight gain. In the 1970s, U.S. adults averaged 7+ hours per night. We are now down to the low 6s. When we sleep too little (6 hours or fewer) we:
A review of 15 years of research indicates an effect of partial sleep deprivation on body weight management. Partial sleep deprivation, an energy imbalance, and weight gain prevention and weight loss promotion are all linked.
What to Do to Snoozzzzzzze and Lose?
Sleep at least seven hours per night, preferably eight. More than eight is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze nine or ten hours. (Unless you’re a teen reading this midlife blog, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback).
Also take a look at the suggestions in this infographic courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation.
I will be implementing their tips this coming week. And shutting down Netflix by 10:30pm. Want to sleep better with me for the next 7 days? You know what I mean….
by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Dear Anne: We can say you are sane enough already to ask a great and common question. Actually you managed a three-in-one special deal as you actually have three separate issues:
And because we like package bonus deals, you get a four part answer to make you happy and zippy!
Problem: Are you dehydrated? Solution: Drink more water
Being underwatered will suck you dry! Even slight dehydration—as little as 2% of normal fluid loss—will reduce your energy levels. Dehydration reduces blood volume, thickening your blood. Then your heart pumps less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs, thereby draining your energy.
Problem: Are you anemic? Solution: Get your blood tested
Anemia would cause your stated symptoms. Find out if you’re getting enough iron or losing more than you’re replacing.
Too much sugar? Not eating regular meals or skipping breakfast? Drinking wine late at night or starting the day with simple carbs? Powering through your day by relying on caffeine? Any of these habits will result in overall fatigue.
Your work day is done and so are you! We totally get how tempting a nap sounds after a long, perhaps stressful work day. And maybe what you need is simply to sleep more or to revel in naps, guilt free. Most North American adults undersleep. But you asked about moving, and we are all about activity.
In fact, we bet you already know the counterintuitive reality that exercise increases energy. Studies indicate that as little as three bouts of cardio activity a week for 20 minutes per session boosts energy in as few as six weeks. Once you get past those first few weeks of starting to move more, you will enter that energizer bunny zone where exercise pumps you up rather than drags you down.
To get yourself doing something, the key is to commit to anything, not everything. What is the least you can do given your current exhaustion and ache levels? Determine what is achievable and head for the minimum. We really mean it. Take the mental pressure off yourself and head for the LEAST, not MOST you are willing to start with.
Rather than plunging into high intensity interval training or facing overload weight training, find something you enjoy and that comes easily to you. A resistance training fitness class where you are encouraged to go at your pace. A walk, brisk stroll, or march in place. A yoga, Pilates, stretch, or other mind/body class that combines movement with visualization, relaxation, or quiet time at the end. What about lunges during tv commercials or a few ab exercises before dinner? Just 5 minutes on an indoor bicycle? Steps at home you can go up and down a few times. Water time if you have access to a pool or natural body of water- swimming, pool class, water jogging.
If you still find yourself needing a push to take the fork in the road towards activity, not lethargy, get a dog that likes walks. We might say “later” and “no” to ourselves, but who can deny a pet pooch whose daily walk is the day’s highlight? Wag wag, perky ears and out you go!
If exercise is wearing you out, most likely you need to drop the intensity of your workout. Another possibility is you are choosing stressful moves. Stress will wear you out even if the activity is low intensity.
And of course, we have to interject that your post-exercise nap might be the best thing for you. But if you feel movement is wearing you down, then reduce the intensity or duration. You are either going too hard or too long at this phase of your re-entry program.
Try our Whole Body, No Equipment Needed, Easy as 3-2-1 Routine
Before this post gets too long and tiresome (aha hah ha) let’s go with a simple, straightforward, “gee, we really don’t know your goals, limitations, time available” starting point program. If nothing else, do the following three moves that will address all major muscles of your body. Easy to perform; multi-joint so you get a lot of bang for your buck; and needing no equipment.
When you’re done, walk for 5 minutes.
You will feel so energized you’ll want more. Find that “more” in these posts that also answer your questions:
And of course, we have to mention our recent TransformAging Summit webinar session, “(Re)Starting Fitness Over 50,” which is sponsored by Rancho la Puerta Wellness Resort, a perfect place to ease into exercise. , For sale along with the other 5 presentations. Slides included. $34
After I gave my response, I walked back into the gym and taught two more classes – one Drums Alive ; one strength training on the ball. Once I was done teaching, I started thinking further about her energy question. Although it was really probably a compliment with no answer expected, I did ponder it as a sort of research question. You know, in an anecdotal sense, as I haven’t done any research on myself (trying two cigarettes in 7th grade sort of counts as self-research I guess. I smoked the wrong end, as we were hiding in a dark basement, so couldn’t see. Turned it around, inhaled deeply, almost died from coughing. End of smoking career).
First, the answers I rejected as to the genesis of my energy:
Want to know what I told her? Three words: Exercise, Nutrition, and WillingnessExercise makes you tired, not energized is short-term thinking. You can reduce fatigue & gain energy, but not always in ways you suspect. Click To Tweet
Most non-exercisers will think, “Hey, wait just a sec. Exercise makes you tired, not energized. W.R.O.N.G. That is short-term thinking. In the long run (and 57 is the long run, I assure you), the cardiovascular system becomes more efficient when it is challenged with exercise. I’ve been teaching for 35 years, plus I danced and played soccer before that. So even when I had anemia in my 20s, I still had lots of energy. This post we wrote with 7 of the top reasons people exercise will enlighten you. And this other post with the other top 7 reasons will make you smile. Or so we hope.
It’s probably an unfair match-up between my eating habits and my university students’ because they are part of a demographic famous for eating (to say it delicately) crap. I require them to eat a healthy breakfast, yet I don’t actually monitor their personal lives, nor am I all that sure that their definition of “healthy” matches mine. However, I do
nag give them friendly advice about what constitutes a suitable breakfast prior to working out. In our radio interview with personal trainer, author, and biologist Tamara Grand, PhD you can hear her excellent advice about clean eating for women over 45 (though her advice works for all ages). I have taken her “tough love” advice about no longer being able to eat as I did in my younger years (due in part to estrogen and other hormones).
What the heck does this have to do with energy, and what do I mean by willingness? I really just mean attitude and being willing to do what it takes to be healthy and fit. I am not a of fan of the word “willpower” when it comes to moving and eating for health because it’s too easy to feel it’s a battle, and I don’t want to fight with myself. Trying to think succinctly, I’d say that I am pretty good at “If / Then” decisions. For example, I walk a lot. And when I walk I don’t actually like to sweat. But I think, “If I walk up the mountain road for an hour, then I’ll have done my 10,000 steps (my daily goal) for the day.” Or “If I choose not to eat cookies or ice cream when I crave an evening snack, then I’ll be that much closer to my weight goal.” I think of the choices, then make conscious decisions. I essentially have a bargain with myself. Luckily, most of my bargains lead to a happy, energetic resolution!Willingness, not willpower will help you gain more energy, especially women over 50 and post menopausal Click To Tweet
I’m tempted to say, “Suck it, youngsters,” but I like my youngsters, and was once one myself. So I think I’ll just say, “Try to keep up. Maybe by the time you’re 50 plus, you’ll have lots of energy too!”
For those of you above 50 (or know someone who is), do you have more energy now than you did then?
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Alexandra Williams, MA