According to fitness guru and lifestyle expert Christine Fee, millions of sleep-deprived Americans are chronically anxious and zapped, simultaneously wired and tired, or just flat-out fatigued and fat, suffering from their own personal energy — and weight — crisis that isn't going to get fixed with caffeine and sugar. The secret to this increasingly common health predicament? Sleep.
More sleep means more energy and less weight
SheKnows: There is no doubt the economy has negatively impacted the overall health of Americans, from insomnia to emotional eating. What do you see as the consequences of poor sleep habits?
Christine Fee: The ultimate consequences of poor sleep habits go largely underestimated and far beyond just a ragged appearance — they trigger higher anxiety, moodiness, a dampened sex life and an overall lower quality of life. In fact, people report being happier with more sleep than with more income. That says a lot about how much sleep can boost our well-being, even in a down economy.
SK: With sleep deprivation a common complaint among Americans and two-thirds of Americans classified as overweight or obese, can you explain how lack of sleep is associated with weight gain?
"People report being happier with more sleep than with more income."
CF: Lack of sleep creates hormonal imbalances, which play havoc with your metabolism. Inadequate sleep causes increased hunger, decreased sense of fullness and increased overall appetite. And if that's not enough to make you gain weight, it causes increased cravings for calorie-dense, high-carb foods such as sweets, salty snacks and starchy foods.
SK: Since it's been established that sleep is associated with weight gain and the inability to lose weight, what exactly happens in the body during sleep that allows women to "sleep the fat off"?
CF: Sleep can actually boost your body's ability to burn fat. During sleep your body metabolizes carbohydrates efficiently to be used as an energy source. Sleep loss interferes with this metabolic process and leads to fat storage and added pounds.
Exercise and soothing scents promote sleep
SK: Experts often recommend exercise as a way to promote better sleep. What are your recommendations for exercise to help women better their body, mind and sleep?
CF: All the Pilates, dance, aerobics, weight training or whatever in the world won't make a huge impact without quality sleep. It's not just lack of exercise and attention to diet that catches up to people. Sleep deprivation is what I find as the most common denominator among those who struggle with looking and feeling their best.
It is a known fact that exercise can improve a woman's body, mind and sleep. I recommend that women include all aspects of fitness in their exercise regimens. This includes cardio/aerobics (walking, running, dancing, swimming, cycling, etc.); strength training with weights, bands, balls, power yoga and Pilates; and stretching.
"Anything is possible if you know how to address your body's needs 24/7."
SK: How does exercise encourage sleep?
CF: Exercise increases "deep sleep" by reducing the amount of stress hormones in the body, resulting in a lower heart rate, relaxed blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
SK: Aromatherapy is another popular recommendation for sleep. What are your suggestions for incorporating aromatherapy into a restful sleep routine?
CF: Aromatherapy is a wonderful addition to a restful sleep routine. Lavender has natural calming and relaxation qualities, and can be used in the form of a massage oil, bath oil, pillow spray, candle or room diffuser.
The No. 1 secret to shut-eye?
SK: When you have trouble sleeping, what is your No. 1 secret to getting shut-eye?
CF: My No. 1 secret to getting a good night's sleep is a 15-minute calming bedtime routine that includes a blend of light stretching, soothing music and aromatherapy oil, which takes me to another place, free from the stresses of the day.
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