Can you really sleep your way to a better memory? Sound too good to be true? Believe, believe!
Wait a second though. Isn’t our blog focused on active aging? How active can sleep be? (Not referring to sleep walking if you wondered.) Since we define “active aging” as making good choices about wellness, exercise, movement, and health habits, then sleep habits definitely come into play.
If you’ve been reading our posts for a bit, you know my sister and I have a particular interest in the connection between the brain and body.Newly researched pink noise is a real memory booster #Babyboomers #Activeaging Click To Tweet
Guess what? Do you use background sounds to help you sleep? While “white noise” such as a static, steady background hum nicely lulls us to sleep, newly researched “pink” noise is a real memory booster. Pink noise offers rhythmic variation with a mix of high and low frequencies. Examples might include falling rain, waves lapping at a shore, or an oscillating fan. White noise is steady and eventually gets ignored by the brain; pink noise has an intermittent quality that keeps your neurons firing, positively affecting memory storage during deep sleep stages.
Getting enough quality sleep becomes more problematic with age. As we get older, we sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also linked to shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show we still need as much sleep as when we were younger. The exciting aspect about pink noise is that the study (from Northwestern University) focused on older adults, who performed better on memory tests after just one night listening while snoozing.
Already well established is that:
A 2010 Harvard study discovered that those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on a test of creativity than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. That REM sleep gave the brain time and the ability to work creatively on various test problems.
If you really want a better memory, easier learning and enriched creativity, add pink noise to your nightly 7-9 sleep hours.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Be prepared to disbelieve my next sentence: “If the U.S. continues its current weight gain trends, within the next 2 decades 100 percent of our adult population is projected to be obese. Not just overweight, obese!”
That Freak Out Fit Fact comes straight from the founder of the National Weight Loss Registry, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center located at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and professor of pediatrics and medicine, James O. Hill, PhD. That’s some serious chops. (For more eye-opening weight loss info from Dr. Hill, read Reducing Obesity: What Does and Doesn’t Work?
If you are at all like me, you are thinking “no way that projected statistic can be right as I have no plan to be in that category and I do plan to be alive in 20 years.”
Consider that already 2/3 of our population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in the minority.
So what can we – you and I – do to reverse that trend and stay at a healthy weight? If you are running to the answer of “eat a healthy diet and exercise” you are mostly right. But exercise and diet are not enough. We must also recognize other factors that cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.2/3 of US population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in minority #activeaging Click To Tweet
If you suspect that stress is affecting your weight, once you are done reading this post, click to find out more about what’s going on:
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:
Reduce stress by building in activities or habits that soothe you. Meditate, perform some kind of cardio workout, take a bath, play with your pet. RELAX ALREADY!
Sleep at least 7 hours per night, preferably 8. More than 8 is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze 9 or 10 hours. Unless you’re a teen reading this, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback.
Reduce sugar intake. Focus on ingredient labels to know what sugars are in packaged foods. Worry less about the sugar in fruits or sugar you put in your coffee. Where sugar adds up is as an ingredient in other foods. And it’s cleverly disguised too so check for any words ending in “lose” and starting with “something Latin sounding.” Examples: sucrose, lactose, dextrose.Having trouble losing weight? Could be 3 sneaky saboteurs that have nothing to do w/ exercise or diet #activeaging Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Great. Now I’m hungry, cranky, tired and stressed out. I do not wish to be a statistic, unless it’s in the category of “Woman who is 20 years older and has perfect curves.” I also want to be able to run high and jump tall buildings in a single bound. I think I’ll go take a nap. I already did the cardio. A steam bath sounds good too. With aromatherapy so I can smell my bright, fit future!!
What if you are still having trouble losing weight and suspect it’s your metabolism? Find out if your theory is right by clicking below:
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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
HURRY! Just one more week to get our FREE booklet, 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain. Subscribe to our blog now.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Incorporate the following 3 “activities” into your life to enter 2015 with less — less weight, less stress, less mental clutter. Each supports and interacts with the others.
Use meditation to better understand your relationship to food, exercise, and stress. For example, meditation can assist weight loss efforts by reducing emotional eating, binge eating — basically any kind of eating that is not mindful. Meditators generally have higher consciousness of their thoughts and actions. They therefore make better decisions regarding health choices.
Guided Meditation Apps
If you are eager to get started with meditation, try the free meditation apps listed in our post: Meditation, Menopause, and Memory.
2. Sleep Sufficiently
Several studies link lack of enough sleep with obesity. For one, if you are getting only 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night, instead of the recommended 7 to 9 you are awake more hours slugging down extra snicky snacks.
For another, sleep deprived brains tend to make poor decisions. “Yes, I neeeed that high calorie, sugary late night treat. I deserve it. The calories disappear after midnight just like Cinderella’s coach and horses.” Uh huh. Let me also ask — do you feel like working out when you are tired?
Too little sleep also affects the hormones that regulate appetite and fat storage. The little gremlin, ghrelin whispers a naughty message more to the sleep deprived — “you are hungry. Eat, my pretty, eat.” Simultaneously, leptin the lambkin that usually cues you to back away from the fork, goes to sleep on the undernapped.
Still awake? Then read our post on how insufficient sleep causes weight gain.
3. Breathe “Actively and Energetically”
Breathe Your Way to Less: Less Food, Less Weight, Less Stress
Active breathing simply means paying attention to your in- and exhalations. No judgment, no expectations. Just be aware of your breaths. Energetic breathing is short and fast. Inhalations are forceful and through the nose. Expand your belly as you inhale. Exhale with equal force, contracting your belly.
Use energetic breaths as a natural, zero calorie picker upper instead of food, caffeine, or other quick fixes to gain energy. Breathing energetically stimulates your central nervous system the way exercise does — first by elevating, then calming you.
With both kinds of breaths, you are building self-awareness and interrupting unconscious patterns that may not be serving you. Become a better breather by inhaling the info in our post, Breathe Life Into Yourself.
True — meditating, sleeping more, and breathing with intent alone will not directly cause calories to burn faster than holiday buns baked too long and hot. However, combined with everything else you are doing to keep weight at bay, these 3 tools can be part of your powerful arsenal as you wrap up the holiday season, the year .. and maybe a few gifts too.
Give a gift to yourself. Join us at the Tenaya Wellness Spa Retreat coming up faster than energetic breaths. Jan 16-19 in Yosemite. Click to see the sessions, treatments, meals, and more that you will get as their guest. BONUS – we’ll meet each other as we are presenting workouts and wellness sessions. Wonder whether you are doing common exercises correctly … or um, well, stoopidly? Eager to take a cutting edge ABC: Abs, Butt, Core workout? You get it all at the Tenaya wellness weekend.
Less than 6 hours of sleep can contribute to weight gain. According to researcher Dr. Michael Sivak, an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year. Part of that is the 147 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. More than 35 percent of American adults are obese and 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.
Want to improve your memory, learning and creativity? Get 8-9 hours of sleep! A 2010 Harvard study discovered that those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on a test of creativity than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. That REM sleep gave the brain time and the ability to work creatively on various test problems. Further info on this is in our post “Sleep Your Way to a Better Brain & Body.”
I looked through some research Technogel has on their site regarding non-rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and foam versus gel mattresses, and learned something about the differences between light and deep sleep when it comes to muscle repair, memory, appetite suppressing/ increasing hormones, and concentration. It would seem skin and mattress temperature, plus bed comfort can assist or inhibit the quality of your sleep. It’s been extremely warm lately, so I know exactly how poorly I sleep when I’m hot!
Less than two months ago, researchers from University Hospital Case Medical Center presented their evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between lack of sleep and aging skin. They found that “poor sleep quality can accelerate signs of skin aging and weaken the skin’s ability to repair itself at night.” Poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of fine lines, uneven pigmentation, slackening of skin and reduced elasticity, while good quality sleepers recovered more efficiently from stressors such as sunburn, redness, and inflammation.
Technogel Sleep Experience Center
I know I’d like to be fit, smart and youthful looking, so I packed up my dreams and desires, and drove to Los Angeles to practice just one letter of the alphabet (zzzzz, in case I stumped you) at the experience center, thanks to an invitation from the director, Doriana. Just me for the whole night, plus the Technogel pillow and mattress of my choice.
As I already own one of their pillows, I knew that the gel “soft-solid” material inside their bedding is the result of a collaboration with the Italian company and Dr. Scholl’s, so I expected to sleep comfortably. The center is on a side street near the Beverly Center that was actually kind of noisy, so I was somewhat concerned about sleeping through till morning (I‘m a very light sleeper). Of course, maybe Technogel chose that location on purpose, to prove you can sleep through almost anything…
I went to bed around 10 pm, which is 2 hours sooner than normal, and slept all the way through till 8 am. That made me happy. Probably smarter, younger and more radiant too! Before leaving, I poked the decorations they had in the room, as they were all made with the gel. Masks, cats, the chair cover…Does that make me a tactile person or just curious?
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Alexandra is away presenting at a conference. That tells me to whip out some photos I took, add some interesting scoop from our vast files of saved fitness tidbits, and make posting life easy on myself. Then I will go for a walk!
Every season is a good time to fit in a walk. Are you surprised that people accumulate more walking steps in fall than in spring? Then you might also be surprised to learn that a Walk is as Good As a Run (Go ahead and click that link. Just come back here when done.)
A one hour power walk can extend your life span up to two hours. Keep walking … another 112 years. While you’re out there, read this post on Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better WalkingA one hour power walk can extend your life span up to two hours. Click To Tweet
“A vigorous walk can do more good for an unhappy person than all the medicine in the world.” Do you agree or disagree?Sleeping an extra hour a night could help you drop 14 pounds in a year. Click To Tweet
Getting the idea to walk then sleep? Perk up; Drop off; Lose weight. Works for me! If you want more images with motivational quotes, click over to our post, Quotes to Move You.
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Photos: I took the above photos at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort, Tecate, MX and in Santa Barbara, CA where the sun shines summer, winter, fall, and spring.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: For the past ten years or so, I’ve had issues with vertigo, which has many causes. My vertigo turned out to be related to neck tension that affected my inner and middle ear. In practice, this meant I would be stuck in bed for days, not even able to move my eyes quickly for fear of getting sick and dizzy.
Since figuring out the problem, I have been able to manage my neck tension through massage. But!!!! (there’s always a “but” in these stories) I don’t go to the massage therapist often enough. So when the chance came to try out a Technogel anatomical pillow, I abruptly broke up with my lumpy excuse of a down pillow (I believe it had gone down, down, down years ago), and welcomed the anatomical pillow into my life. According to the description, this pillow is “recommended for those suffering from neck, back or shoulder pain. It provides excellent support and muscle relaxation. Suggested for those who sleep primarily on their sides or on their back.” Ka-Chinga.
I heard that it takes a few days to adjust, but that wasn’t the case with me.
Neck – Oh, this is lovely, and I feel so relaxed.
Me – That’s good. Now please go to sleep and release some tension, wouldya?
Neck – Yes, um, hmmmmm, zzzzzzz, snork, sigh………(sounds of soft breathing)
I haven’t dissected my pillow, but I know that it’s got foam and gel inside. And I know that the company got its start in the medical field, providing cushioning for bed-bound hospital patients. I know this because I went to the Technogel booth during my BlogTour trip to IMM Cologne, Germany. Technogel is an Italian company, I was in Germany, and my primary language is Englilsh. You can get a good night’s sleep in any language!
As part of my (cough cough) research, I tested out the bed at the show. And the laptop pads. And the pillows (they have 6 styles). Eventually they noticed and asked me to change out of my pajamas and leave. Not really, I was treated extremely well and encouraged to lie on the bed for as long as I wanted. Poppies… Poppies. Poppies will put them to sleep. Sleeeeep. Now they’ll sleeeeep!
Kymberly: I, too was selected to try out a Technogel pillow. I chose the expensive one Alexandra did not pick so that we had some variety to report back on. While I fall asleep easily, I tend to wake up often then toss, turn, and flip my pillow over and over looking for elusive slumber.
Do you also have sleepless nights or stretches of insomnia? Some nights I wake up and run “to do” lists and conversations through my head. Such head chatter makes it hard to get back to sleep. Are you familiar with the song “Pillow Talk” made famous by Doris Day?
Pillow talk, pillow talk
Another night of hearin’ myself talk, talk, talk, talk
How do I turn Doris Day Pillow Talk into Kymberly Night of No Talk? Enter my new Technogel Deluxe pillow. It may be heavy, but it’s not chatty. Yes, the first thing I noticed was that the pillow had some heft to it. Yet it was obedient, conforming to my head and temperature.
Being a person who loves words, I actually read the pamphlet that came with my nifty, high tech pillow. There I learned that we are supposed to heave ho “standardl” pillows every 18 months due to germs, bacteria, small animals that look horrific under microscopes, and other gross out details. Oops, I had been about a decade behind on that task! Welcome even more to my new sleep buddy.
Ultimately the big question is simply “did I sleep better with this deluxe Technogel pillow?” The big answer is “yes.” Between the Pure Matters Healthy Sleep supplements I take, the new mattress my hubster got for my last birthday, and this special foam and gel pillow, I am showing those night sweats and insomnia moments who is boss! A colleague had told me to expect needing a week to adjust to Technogel pillows, but that the adjustment would be worth it. I transitioned in about four seconds, one snore, and two flutters of my eyelids. Comfort and support were mine. If you want to borrow my pillow, we are talking one serious pillow fight to wrench it from my sleeping grasp!
Relax your mind and body by subscribing to our YouTube channel and blog. Please also follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click now on the icons above.
I was compensated by FitFluential LLC for this campaign. All opinions, pillows and snores are my own (actually, the snores are Kymberly’s).
Memory & Learning:
One very important benefit of proper sleep is the help it gives you with learning and memory. Whether you’re 60 and trying to navigate the intricacies of Facebook (the fastest growing segment of Facebook users in the past 2 years has been females aged 48-64), or a 20 year old college student trying to study for an exam, getting some sleep after going through the material will help you master the information.
In a 2010 Harvard study, volunteers learned a complex maze. Some of them then took a 90 minute nap. The only people who increased their performance on a second attempt at the maze were those who dreamed about it during their naps. The researchers concluded that the brain was reactivating and reorganizing the recently learned material during the nap.
But let’s face it – few people have 90 minutes in the day for a nap. If we did, we’d probably just get the 8-9 hours (20 year olds need 9-10) of sleep that our bodies actually need each night. Good news – a German study found that a short, six-minute nap helped participants recall a list of 30 words they had memorized earlier.
In our recent post about the 3 stealth saboteurs of weight loss, we mentioned how less than 6 hours of sleep can be correlated with weight gain. According to research from the University of Michigan, an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year. Maybe because you are sleeping instead of snacking! Also, hormones are a tricky thing, and being awake so much can rev up your appetite! And in a study that just came out today (Oct. 25, 2012), a review of 15 years of research “indicate 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! More than 35 percent of American adults are obese and more than 28 percent sleep less than six hours a night, and the study authors found these two to be correlated.
The Harvard study also discovered that those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on a test of creativity than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. That REM sleep gave the brain time and the ability to work creatively on the problems that had been posed for the test.
So forget the caffeine and alcohol; forget the all-nighters; and forget whatever it is you forgot because you’re overtired! Acting like “an adult” is just making us overweight, grumpy and dull. Better to act like a kindergartener and take a nap!
Stay awake long enough for your twitchy finger to press the subscription buttons for our YouTube channel and blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.