If you’ve already seen your 60th birthday come and go, you’ve probably noticed it’s a little tougher to maintain your weight. Thanks to shifting hormones and other physical changes, it becomes difficult to lose excess fat as we age. However, there is a laundry list of reasons that whittling down your waistline is good for you — and better sleep is one of them.
How Your Weight Affects Your Overnight Hours
There are many reasons that the number on the scale may be why you toss and turn through the midnight hour. According to researchers at Harvard, being overweight is a risk factor for sleep apnea. When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing, usually multiple times per night. This can present as loud snoring or unexpected jolting, which can wake you up. Between not getting enough oxygen and having very little chance of reaching deep sleep, you’ll most likely feel chronically fatigued, which leaves you less able to make healthy choices.
Another reason that being overweight can adversely impact your sleep is that having a high body mass index (BMI) might leave you with high body temperature. This, in turn, may leave you soaked in sweat between the sheets.
A Little Lifestyle Changes Goes a Long Way
When it comes to losing weight, you can’t think in terms of dieting; you need to focus on lifestyle changes. One of these is to start exercising, if you are not already. Yoga, swimming, and walking are all excellent options for seniors. Each of these is low-impact, can be done in a group and are typically available at your local fitness facility. However, even if you can’t get to the gym every day, there are still plenty of ways to add activity to your day-to-day routine.
If walking is difficult, consider a small portable elliptical. Often called under-desk ellipticals, these are small and convenient so you can pedal away while you watch the news. Before you buy, take some time to look around for reviews to make sure that you can find one that fits within your budget and has the features you’re looking for. Similarly, you can invest in exercise videos to do at home so that you can follow along at your own pace.
In addition to exercise, another healthy lifestyle change that can help banish belly fat is eating well. The good news here is this doesn’t mean losing out on flavor. According to Health.com, a few of the best foods to eat if you’re looking to lose weight are oatmeal, blueberries, salmon, and lettuce. You don’t have to do a complete eating overhaul at first, and there is nothing wrong with easing yourself into new dietary habits. You can start by reducing your sugar and trans fat intake. Foods like cookies, pie crusts, cakes, and doughnuts often contain both, so eliminating these items is a great start and can make a huge difference on the scales.
Other Sleep-Specific Benefits of Losing Weight
When you lose weight, you’ll start to see the benefits immediately. Many of these affect your sleeping patterns in positive ways. Here are a few to consider:
- You’ll have more energy. CNN Health reports that carrying around less weight means your body expends less energy just to exist. This will translate into more pep in your step and a greater ability to keep up with the grandkids.
- You might stop taking some medications. Being overweight puts you at a greater risk of many conditions, such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and depression. Many drugs used to treat these conditions can cause insomnia. If you lose weight, you may naturally correct these health concerns and, under the care and guidance of your physician, may be able to ditch the pesky prescriptions.
- You will be healthier overall. The importance of quality sleep can’t be underscored enough. Getting the rest you need will improve virtually all aspects of your health, and may possibly give your memory a boost.
Although you may need about an hour less sleep each night than your 30-something counterparts, getting a good seven to eight hours still crucial to your health. And when your weight is in the way, make changes that will positively benefit you morning, noon, and night.