Sleep is important for your health

Bad news for night owls. Their risk of early death is 10% higher than for early risers, study finds -

Are you an night owl or morning lark? According to this study, the combination of the two may not be good for your health. Like a regular exercise program, it is also important to get regular and enough sleep.

I have often joked that starting a health club was the worst thing I could have ever done for my health. One would think that being surrounded by exercise equipment and a swimming pool is the answer to life long health and fitness. While it does make achieving the required daily exercise goals easier to attain, it is not what you might think.

In the early years of Swymfit, it was about survival and making payroll. I channelled my best stay up late graduate school skills, along with my love of the early morning to get things done and to make my business work. Some would say these are required skills for success. I call it an addiction.

Something in my brain was trained to really enjoy staying up late to write a paper or study for a test. Conversely, nothing felt better than to get up early in the morning to experience my surroundings, to workout and to get more things done by 8 AM than many of my peers. As a former ski coach, catching the first chair lift, as the sun was rising over the beautiful mountain peaks was invigorating and never got old.

The combination of being able to stay up late and get up early was also a bit of a power trip. I could work harder and do more than my friends and peers. I had staying power and could endure from the lack of sleep. Only the weak could not handle the work load. Yet maybe the “weak” also knew something that I did not?

We all need sleep. In fact, more and more research is suggesting that without enough sleep, we could be increasing our susceptibility to dementia, weight gain and a reduced ability to learn. A good night of sleep should be included along with your daily exercise routine.

Lifestyle habits - You are in control

In my previous blog, I referenced a study and article discussing the 5 factors for living a healthy life. They were: nutritious diet, maintain healthy weight, not smoking, drinking in moderation and exercising 30 minutes per day.

What is nice about these lifestyle habits is that each one is under our control.

For example, smoking, eating and drinking all require a conscious decision to put something into the mouth. Whether it is something that emits smoke or contains unhealthy or excessive calories, participating requires moving your hand to your mouth.

You are in charge of your physical actions. At some point during a meal, your hand makes a few more visits to your mouth than you stomach wants. Your fingers must grasp the cigarette or the extra glass of alcohol and bring them to your lips.

Unfortunately, as easy as it sounds to stop putting unhealthy things into the body or excessive amounts of healthy things, for too many it is easier to have a bad habit rather than a good habit. Why are so many of us inclined towards the excesses that can hurt our bodies and health instead of making healthy habits the norm? While one could write an entire book on this topic, the day to day reality is that habits are difficult to change. Further, I would argue that breaking an entrenched bad habit requires an unwavering desire and effort to change. It is not enough to simply want to change.

If you want to focus on your health, and depending on where you fall within these 5 factors, my suggestion is to start with daily exercise. Purchase a pair of comfortable shoes and start walking or riding a bike. Join a health club. Get your body moving. If work keeps you sitting, stand up from your desk and walk around the office. Simultaneously, if you are a smoker do whatever it takes to stop. There are absolutely no benefits from smoking, unless dying young of a horrible and painful disease is your goal.

By making regular exercise your first goal and feeling all of the positive effects of exercise, your bad habits will feel worse and you will then have additional impetus to improve other aspects of your lifestyle habits. Let the good feelings that you get from exercise help you work towards eliminating those habits that you know are bad.

Add years to your life - Try going 5 for 5

“Men and women who were 5-for-5 on the lifestyle factors were 74% less likely to die during the study period than their counterparts who were 0-for-5. In particular, they were 65% less likely to die of cancer and 82% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, the researchers found”.

The lifestyle factors are - Exercising at least 30 min per day, nutritious diet, maintain healthy weight, not smoking, drinking in moderation.

While the science on the healthy amount of alcohol consumed can be debated - regular exercise, having a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight and of course not smoking have a tremendous amount of supporting research.

If you are going 5-for-5, you could be adding years to your life.

“At age 50, the women who had the healthiest lifestyles could expect to live until age 93, 14 years longer than women who had the least healthy lifestyles. Among 50-year-old men, the healthiest could expect to live until age 87, 12 years longer than their least-healthy counterparts”.

Even if this study was off by a few years and women got just an extra 10 and men an extra 8, wouldn’t you still want to hedge your bet and try a healthy lifestyle?