Sleep Your Troubles Away

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If you’re like me, you probably spend most of your day exhausted and chugging coffee just to function. One bad night of sleep turns into two…and before you know it you’ve barely slept all week. You think to yourself, I’ll catch up on sleep this weekend – but when the weekend comes, family obligations and household errands take the lead and all of a sudden it’s Monday again. Sound familiar? Well, turns out we aren’t alone…but this is a much bigger problem than we all realize.

Studies show that over 40% of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It’s important to every aspect of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being to get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep won’t just invigorate you; it could also help control how much you eat. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating—especially the overconsumption of junk food—which can lead to weight gain. It also has an impact on hormonal balance. Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls. This leads to an increase in hunger. Not only does a lack of sleep interfere with hunger signals, but there’s also the problem that less time in bed simply gives you more hours of the day to eat.

In addition to weight/metabolic issues, a lack of sleep also will cause more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Some research has linked a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body and it’s now believed that people who experience short-term sleep deprivation are not able to process glucose as efficiently as those who get eight hours of sleep. This means that they have an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

If a person is lacking rest but has continuous muscular activity, other issues such as cramping arise. Muscle fascia tears, hernias, and other problems usually associated with physical overexertion have also been reported in extreme cases of sleep deprivation.

Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. Lapses in ordinary day-to-day tasks can cause worrying results; from missing words or sentences while taking notes to omitting important ingredients while cooking. It appears that carrying out these tasks which require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night.

As hard as it may seem, we need to make time for ourselves and for sleep. Doing this will ensure that you lead a much more productive and healthier life.

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Heart Healthy Habits

February is American Heart Month, which focuses on the prevention of cardiovascular (or heart) disease. Cardiovascular is a term which relates to the heart, as well as the arteries and veins that supply our organs with blood. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.  Many Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Your risk also increases with age; however, regardless of age, it is NEVER too early to start practicing heart-healthy habits. Here are a few steps you can begin implementing at any age:

  • Check your family history. Ask family members if they have had heart disease or any risk factors for it. If the answer is yes, you have an increased chance for developing the disease will go up so it’s definitely important to learn the information sooner rather than later.
  • Smoking will double your risk for heart disease and stroke. Avoid all smoke, including second hand. Plus smoking combined with certain oral contraceptives can cause an increase in your blood pressure, so women should be sure to choose their birth control carefully.
  • Know your numbers, such as your cholesterol and blood pressure, which will impact your heart health. Visit your doctor regularly to monitor both of these. As we age, it becomes increasingly more critical to monitor changes in our body so make sure to get those regular checkups and screenings.
  • Excess weight increases the heart’s work. It also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. By losing as little as 10 pounds, you can lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet & exercise regularly. As we age, our dietary needs, as well as physical limits, may change. However, regardless of your age, making smart food choices and keeping yourself active will insure a longer lifespan. A good rule of thumb is to follow these guidelines:
    • Eat more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry/fish, and nuts.
    • Avoid red meat, as well as sugary and processed foods, and foods high in sodium.
    • For overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity, 5 days per week along with muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.
  • Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression & anger. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, which directly affects the brain. Long term stress will cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to damage of the artery walls. Find ways to reduce and/or manage your stress at home and at work. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. A stressful situation will almost always cause your quality of sleep to decline, which can also impact your heart health.
  • Part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is also dependent on getting enough sleep. People who don’t sleep enough are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.Studies show that adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Lack of sleep can also increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Making small adjustments to your daily routine will dramatically improve your overall quality of life. Remember – it’s never too early!! Take action today so you can look forward to a healthier tomorrow!

This too shall pass…

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Well…I’m back! I know it’s been a little while since I last blogged but I needed some time to regroup. Since Christmas I’ve had a lot of unnecessary stress at my job and it’s really been effecting my health. My stomach is the worst that it’s been in years…I haven’t slept very well…my skin keeps breaking out…I’m just a mess. My body has gotten very rundown and as a result I currently am getting over a bad cold. Between the stress and the horrible northeast winter, my workouts really haven’t been consistent. I completed the #Whole30 diet but due to everything going on, it was a failed experiment. Truthfully my life right now just isn’t conducive to such a strict diet with the stomach issues that I have. Once things settle down, I will have to give it another try.

I’ve spent the last few months doing the best thing that I could possibly think of – I’ve focused on the things that make me happiest. I’ve spent time doing things that I enjoy and seeing people who bring me joy. It’s been great balancing out my life and it’s allowed me to forget about the stress, if even just for a moment.

Unfortunately, my fitness has really taken a backseat. My workouts have been sporadic, at best. Between my stomach acting up and the sheer exhaustion from not sleeping well, I just haven’t had the energy or motivation to workout. Some people say they use stress to push them. Well, right before I got sick with this horrible cold I promised myself I would do just that. Truthfully, I feel like I’ve undone a lot of my hard work…and I want it to stop. Now with my stomach being very blown up, it’s a bit hard to get an accurate weight and size but nonetheless I’m not happy with myself these days. I’m not so sure that working out will necessarily change anything physically until I can get rid of the stress…but it will make me feel better mentally.

I recently discovered this fabulous app from Bodybuilding.com:

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It allows you to select workout programs based on your individual goal. Whether you want to tone up or become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, they have a plan for you. Last year I followed a diet and workout regimen that mimicked that of a figure competitor. Well….this app has several programs geared towards just that! I will be starting one of the plans this week and incorporating it into my 4-weeks to fit challenge, which is coming in about 2 weeks! I also have to get back into doing cardio. Any workouts that I’ve done this winter have centered around lifting. I struggle with running so much due to my breathing troubles that it’s become a chore for me….but with summer rapidly approaching it must be done. While I do prefer lifting (and feeling bad ass), if I want to look good on the beach….cardio has to happen too.

I’ve gone through much worse situations than this in my life and I know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be an uphill battle but I will try my best to keep my head up and use the stress as motivation rather than letting it keep me down. If you are facing a similar situation or if you are struggling in another way, remember this too shall pass. After all, nothing worth having comes easy. Work hard, lift heavy, and NEVER GIVE UP!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com