People’s needs vary when it comes to sleep. But what if your lack of shut eye is hurting your health?
Credit: Getty Images
by Rachel Swalin
You know you’re supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but sometimes, you stay up for a night out on the town, to finish a project at work, or even just to watch Law Order reruns. We get it–we’ve all been there, and a late night here and there won’t have any lasting effects beyond the fatigue you feel the next day. It’s when you skimp on sleep night after night that it becomes a real problem. Though you may think your five-hours-a-night habit is nothing to worry about, chronic sleep deprivation has been tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Read on for subtle signs your body needs more time in bed.
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You sway while in Tree pose and wobble in Warrior 2. You’re still young and strong, yet your balance just isn’t there. What gives?
“Balance is something we take for granted,” notes Gunnar Peterson, a personal trainer in Beverly Hills, Calif. Though often associated with warding off falls in the elderly, the ability to maintain your center of gravity is essential for everyone. “Think about walking on the beach or wearing heels,” Peterson says. “That’s a balancing act if I’ve ever seen one.”
Equilibrium is complex, involving sensory input from the eyes and inner ears–as well as information from sensory receptors called proprioceptors, located in the muscles, tendons, and joints. Together with the muscles of your limbs and core, these sensors tell your body where your limbs are in space and allow you to maintain and change your position without losing your balance.
While age is a factor in diminished balance, it’s not the only one. The more you sit and the less active you are, the more your balance will deteriorate, Peterson says: “It’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation.” But regular workouts aren’t a stay-steady guarantee. “You can be in good shape but have horrible balance,” notes exercise physiologist and fitness expert Michelle Lovitt, who sees some of the fit celebrities she works with struggle with stability.
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Being a single-minded exerciser–only taking spin class or clocking treadmill miles, say–is partly to blame. “Consistently limiting your range of motion promotes a lack of body awareness and balance,” explains Faheem Mujahid, owner of and master trainer at InFluence Atelier in Miami. “Left untreated, that causes a weakening of certain muscles and the overuse and fatigue of others, which can lead to injury.” In a review of studies published in Medicine Science in Sports Exercise, balance training was found to reduce the risk of ankle sprains by 36%. Other research shows that it can help enhance athletic performance, improving muscle reaction, sprint times, and strength–all of which come into play when, for example, lunging for a ball on the tennis court.
Fortunately, you can boost your brain-body connection at any time. “Start by changing up your workouts so you’re not overdoing one exercise form,” Lovitt says. Keep yoga in the mix: A recent review found that it can help with balance.
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And turn just about any standard exercise into a balance challenger by adding an element of instability–e.g., lifting one foot as you weight train or running on a soft surface–or incorporating different planes of movement. “Many exercises work in a sagittal plane, meaning you’re moving straight ahead,” Peterson says. “Adding angles causes you to shift your weight, which fires up the supporting muscles in your core and lower body in your effort to remain upright.”
To steady yourself and score body benefits (better posture and fabber abs!), do balance moves daily, Peterson says. He designed a special workout to pump up your proprioception and muscles so you can react faster in unstable situations. Do two sets of each exercise in sequence three times a week, and soon you’ll feel much more confident in Crow pose, on the tennis court–and, yep, in stilettos.