As the dawn of a new decade, many of us will be taking stock of our lot in life. Like any other new year, many will make those firm commitments to eat less, drink less, strive for balance, learn mindfulness, and get into shape. Sound familiar? What many of you may not know is that how well we sleep has a huge impact on all of those aspects of life. If we don’t sleep, our brains get fuzzy so focusing on anything is difficult including eating well, and, we may try to improve our mood with drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, who feels like exercising when they can hardly stay awake? Its fair to say that sleep can be considered a cornerstone of good health. Unfortunately, the sleep deprivation/weight gain cycle is a downward spiral. Not only will we lack the energy to exercise, but poor sleep leads to a decrease in leptin production (a hormone that makes us feel full).
Sleep apnea in particular is associated with being overweight. Weight gain leads to compromised respiratory function as the air passages in the throat become crowded and can collapse during sleep. There are some cases where patients who have their sleep apnea well controlled end up loosing weight (more leptin production and more energy to exercise) and no longer need their CPAP machine. I must caution that this is not a guaranteed outcome for everyone. But its worth a shot!
If you are ready to give exercise a go, here are a couple of tips. First consult your doctor to get the green light. Next, start small. Don’t jump into some crazy exercise regime that has you trying to work out for hours every day. That is unmanageable for all but the most dedicated athletes. Maybe start with a commitment to go for a brisk half hour walk every day or every other day. Once you get used to that, increase your frequency, duration & speed. Let yourself progress along a path that feels comfortable and rewarding yet still challenges you. Reconsider the decision to join a gym right away. There are many community centers and swimming pools that have gym equipment and fitness classes available on a drop-in basis allowing you to try out different activities before making a long-term financial commitment. Consider renting sports equipment to try something new like X-country skiing or snowshoeing, before investing money on all that gear. Once you find your passion, feel confident that you can join the gym, buy your equipment or seasons pass without wasting money Above all else, get a good night’s sleep so you will have the energy to use that fancy new paraphernalia!
Our bodies are machines and they were designed to move. We all know what happens to an engine that is left sitting for too long – rust, corrosion, dried out seals, same thing with our bodies. Sleep and fitness are both critical to our health and overall wellbeing. Recognizing that they go hand in hand, it’s worth the effort to do our best at both.
Good luck & sleep well in 2020!