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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Simple Solutions for Beating Insomnia

GettyImages-469577750.jpgMatthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has made it his career goal to reinforce the fact that 20 large-scale epidemiological studies have all reported the same relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Today, one in three Americans can be categorized as sleep deprived.


The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. Not only does a shortage of sleep affect your productivity, but on less than seven hours of sleep, your body's natural killer cells work less effectively. Walker notes that between 1950 and 2017, the US obesity rate has risen from 13% to the likes of 35%.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.”
—Dr. Matthew Walker, U.C., Berkeley

As obesity in America has steadily risen, the amount of sleep individuals are accumulating per night has decreased—almost two and a half hours, to be exact. Not only is sleep deprivation being glorified as an accomplishment in today’s society, extensive research has concluded that sleep deprivation puts unnecessary stress on the human body, including weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) outlines that both young adults (ages 18–25) and adults (ages 26–64) should aim for 7–9 hours per night consistently. Sounds easy, right? With the prevalence of social media alongside TV and cell phone usage at night, however, most Americans fall short.

Five Tips for Overcoming Insomnia

Here are some tips from the NSF to help you capture the ZZZs and start sawing logs in no time.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wakeup time, even on the weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.
  • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Evaluate your room. Your bedroom should be cool—between 60 and 67 degrees. Check your room for noises or other distractions. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, “white-noise" machines, humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after following the above tips, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional in your area. Check out the following resources for more information.

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep productivity heart disease obesity insomnia sleep deprivation

NIFS Crucial Conversations: I Took My Life Back (Part I)

Katie_Before_2.jpgThere comes a time when a story of struggle, strife, and success must be shared to remind others that you are never alone in your battle, and that achievement and happiness are closer than you may think. Katie Feltman has such a story.

I have had the privilege to work with Katie for many years now, and I can remember the first conversation we had out in the fitness center about where she was at the time, where she wanted to go, and how we could work together to get there. I felt her struggle instantly, but I also felt a great deal of determination, evident from the progress she had made before coming to see me. She wasn’t going to take this battle lying down anymore!

I asked Katie to talk about her journey with me so that I could share it with those who may be looking for that spark, that notion that nothing is impossible, but I’Mpossible! Join me in walking in Katie’s shoes as she shares some of her journey with us.

Conversation with Katie, Part I:

Tony: So, take me back about four years and tell me what was going on with you at that time.

Katie: I was living a very different life. A recent doctor’s visit had revealed I weighed 286 pounds, I was pre-diabetic, I had high blood pressure, my LDL cholesterol was high, and I had just found out I had to wear a Holter monitor to diagnose heart arrhythmias I was having. I had lower back pain from herniated discs that required an unhealthy amount of daily Advil to keep at bay (and along with my poor eating habits had created a wicked case of acid reflux that ultimately became an ulcer) and I slept poorly. For 37 years of age, I wasn’t doing okay. I was unhappy.

Tony: What were some of the major struggles you were dealing with?

Katie: Like most people, I had my share of stress sources; nothing extreme or unusual, but I had an ill mother, and a job that looking back now I realized had reached a point that made me miserable. But generally I had nothing going on outside of me that should have triggered the kind of profound lack of self-care I was engaging in on a regular basis.

“I coped with my stress by pushing my feelings inward and washing it all down with sugary processed foods and wine. I made no time to take care of myself.”

Katie_Before_4.jpgYou’d think with the scary words the doctor was saying I would have walked out of there that day and taken charge of things right then. But change isn’t like that—not for me, at least. I was frustrated with how I felt, and I know this will sound superficial but it is true: I hated how I looked, which I didn’t realize then but now know was key to my struggle. Self-hate = no self care, and that was how I was living my life. I was living life in a muted capacity, and I lacked the motivation to do something about it—any of it.

Tony: Can you describe some of what you were feeling at that time?

Katie: I was demoralized and frustrated at what seemed like an impossible and insurmountable task—it was so daunting. Getting healthy, changing how I lived, and peeling pounds off. I wanted instant results from modest change. I’m an extrovert, and my social life at the time revolved heavily around eating out, going to bars, and generally going places where food and booze were the main reasons for being there multiple times per week. But there was a nagging voice in there that knew there was more out there for me—I just wanted to feel better, feel happy most of the time, cope better with the smaller, mundane stresses as well as major things, and sleep better.

Tony: How did these struggles and frustrations affect your life? What did you feel like before you decided to take your life back?

Katie: I felt unhappy, ashamed, and not in control of my own life, and generally was in a terrible place emotionally and physically. And if it hasn’t been stated clearly enough before, I felt like crap pretty much all the time and it wasn’t just physical—it was mental, too. I was in a fog much of the time. I didn’t handle even small stresses well, much less bigger things. I was just floating along with life rather than living the life I really wanted to live.

“I was just floating along with life rather than living the life I really wanted to live.”

READ PART 2 of this amazing story and learn what it took for Katie to make the critical changes that resulted in her being able to take her life back and overcome obesity and a lack of healthy habits and see measurable weight loss.*

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: NIFS healthy habits fitness center weight loss attitude diabetes personal training heart disease Crucial Conversations obesity making changes

NIFS Crucial Conversations: I Took My Life Back (Part 2)

What does it take for someone to make the critical changes in their life to regain control and live the life they have always wanted to live? This is one question Katie and I tackle in part 2 of Katie’s journey to health, wellness, and happiness.

Katie_After_3.jpgWhen I last left you in part 1, we learned a great deal about where Katie has been, her struggles, her mindset, and her life just a few short years ago. Katie painted a pretty good picture of what she was dealing with every day. Now let’s see what Katie did about it! Let’s learn about what it takes to take a life back.

Conversation with Katie, Part 2

“Among the hundred small changes you have to make, it adds up to Big Change.”

Tony: When was the moment you knew something was different and there was a transformation happening?

Katie: Probably about six months into working with my GT group was when the change became real to me—the “a-ha” moment. I had quit my job and found one that was a much better fit with my personal and professional goals. Once I had the structure and support of group training, I was making better choices for myself in all aspects of my life—nutrition, habits, activities, exercise. I was getting positive reinforcement weekly from my coach and group. I could see it and feel it. Somewhere in there, among the hundred small changes you have to make, it adds up to Big Change, and I realized that’s where it happens.

Tony: What were some of the things that made the biggest impact in your change process?

Katie: Looking back now, I see several things in the GT program that made a major impact for me:

  • Katie_After_2.jpgThe work we do helped me understand that change is incremental. For me, the biggest change was realizing I had to make changes in my habits, and change is something you have to chip away at every. Single. Day. Knowing that there will be setbacks, and things won’t happen overnight. And that’s why I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I set short- and long-term goals with my coach and myself, but I don’t set one giant resolution on January 1. Every day is a resolution.
  • Accountability and support in the group is HUGE for me. HUGE. One of my GT pals calls us her “gym family.” It might sound dorky, but it’s true. We listen. We support. We encourage. We build each other up. We help each other when things are tough. We are there to support each other when we need a hand. We are a team. And while no one in group is food-policing me, I am in-my-head accountable to my team and coach.
  • The overall Group Training program at NIFS and all it offers is unique. I am not aware of any program like this at any other gym. GT provides you with a structure, a framework, ongoing personal attention to structure a program that helps achieve your specific goals, guidance, and a group of like-minded people to support you.
  • Coach Tony gave me the help I needed with behavior change. The GT program allows me the personalized time with Tony to dig into my behaviors, and figure out what I need to do to change to more positive behaviors. I needed to learn how to deal with hard things and be successful at doing that so I could apply those in life. Coach Tony is an expert on movement, but he fundamentally understands the behavior element that is so important for fitness professionals working with clients—this is about not just showing up to work out a few times a week. It’s about, as he always says, “getting right in the head”—healthy body and healthy mind. And he told me this on day one after a depressing BOD POD®—that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Exercise is not a punishment. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, and with the personal attention I get from my NIFS coaches, I was able to figure out what I did need. They know to push me when I need it.
  • I needed accountability without being nagged. I’ve always loved being part of a team. So I needed a group of people that I knew could support me when I was having to make tough decisions about letting other things go in my life. I needed people who would cheer for me whether or not I could do something, to rebuild my confidence. I needed a group of people to make working out fun and make me laugh! Who looks forward to going to the gym? I do. Why? My GT friends.
  • This is what I call a “whole-person” approach to fitness. GT does not bring people in and put us through crazy hour-long workouts five days a week. Yes they are hard, but functional movement, foam rolling, and correctives are as important as progressing on a bench press or doing 50 burpees. We have access to the kind of expertise with the NIFS trainers, Functional Movement Screens, and other tools to keep us healthy.

“Every day is a resolution.”

Tony: What are some of your biggest accomplishments since deciding to make a change? Brag for me a little!

Katie: It’s difficult for me to think about the scared person I was who entered my first GT session nearly three years ago. I was intimidated—but not for long. I only had to spend a few minutes with the trainers and group to feel welcome and know I would be encouraged, even though I couldn’t run a mile then, or hold a plank from my feet. Since starting GT I have:

Katie_After_1.jpgKatie_Before_4.jpg

  • I lost more than 60 pounds (more than 100 since I started my journey)*.
  • Resolved my back-pain issues—where traditional medicine and even PT to a degree failed after my herniated discs, GT did what I needed from a movement, strength, and weight-loss standpoint to really bring this debilitating problem to a resolution*.
  • Climbed a mountain.
  • Continue to make forward progress on my FM screening.
  • Finished two Tough Mudders (both with fellow GTers) and ridden the Hilly Hundred twice.
  • Conquered fears—I had and still have a little bit of a jumping fear, but my vertical and broad jumps continue to get better. There were so many movements I was unable to do three years ago. When I do them now, my GT teammates and Coach Tony recognize this and cheer me on.
  • I’m stronger! I continue to be able to lift heavier weight on bench press and leg press.
  • Conquered my fear of running by doing the NIFS Mini-Marathon Training Program.
  • Built and installed a flagstone patio on my own last summer. I hauled more than 3 tons of rocks. I had some help moving them, but did most of it on my own. It’s not about the patio—it’s about having the confidence and ability to do it! 

Tony: How is your life different now?

Katie: I am 41 but I feel better than I ever have mentally and physically. Physically, I have energy! My metabolic issues are no longer issues. My asthma is better. A recent doctor’s visit revealed excellent blood pressure, my LDL cholesterol is 47 and HDL is 87, and my resting heart rate is around 45 to 48*. I sleep well. I have the energy to live a full life—I’ve always had a full life, but before I was in survival mode. Now I have the energy to live my full life! To not just get through each day, but live each day—and do things I had always wanted to do but lacked the confidence or physical ability to do them. I get up everyday and practice self care, because that makes me a better friend, sister, dog mom, employee, and general citizen of the world. I feel like a fog has lifted and I live every day with intent. I had some significant losses in 2014, including the passing of my mother, and I had the tools and mental toughness to cope with them while maintaining my healthy habits. Finally, I have confidence. I am so grateful for all the support I get from Tony, Mike, and my fellow GTers.

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I am so very proud of Katie for the success she has worked so hard for, and applaud her willingness to share her story in hopes of creating change in others who may be as lost as she once was. Inspiration is Katie’s middle name, and she takes her role as a “fitness ambassador” very seriously and is a leader of the Small Group Training groups she speaks so highly about. No matter the circumstances, change is possible, and you never have to do it alone.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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GT-logo-revised.jpgInterested in trying Small Group Training? Contact Tony today to attend a free session!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting resolutions group training functional training BODPOD obesity