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Why does sleep get worse as you get older?

NOV 29, 2023

Minute 1: Does sleep get worse as you age?

The aging process is wonderful, since we gain many things over the years, like wisdom, children, grandchildren, and… um… well… there must be some other benefits that don’t immediately jump to mind. Unfortunately, one documented downside of taking laps around the sun is that a good night’s rest becomes more elusive: “Why Does My Sleep Become Worse as I Age?” Experts say that our sleep mechanisms are like a used car when we’re older: they've got a lot of mileage, and without proper maintenance, they won’t operate as intended. That means that increasingly, we get less deep sleep, have to wake up in the middle of the night, and rise earlier than we intended. The research is still in its relative infancy, but the cause could have something to do with hypothalamus deterioration. What can we do about it? Well, research found that at least 40 minutes of exercise four times a week helped older adults improve sleep quality. Keeping a consistent sleeping and eating schedule helps as well, and for tips on both of those things, check out: “Get Healthy Sleep by Eating Right on Schedule” and “Creating a Sleep Routine – 6 Steps to Better Sleep.”

Minute 2: We’re going nuts for these healthy nuts

If you think back to our prehistoric hunter-gatherer days, things were a bit nutty. Humans were eating nuts as fast as they could gather them. This food group is an excellent source of protein, according to registered dietician Destini Moody. She recently offered her advice on: “The 6 Best High-Protein Nuts You Can Eat.” First on the list is peanuts, which have the highest amount of protein per serving than just about any other nut. That’s why peanuts and peanut butter are a favorite among athletes looking to gain strength, as protein is one of the most important building blocks for muscle growth. Also on the list are pistachios, which include all 9 essential amino acids, making them what’s known as a “complete protein,” something that’s hard to find outside of animal-based sources. That’s just one of “The Top 5 Health Benefits Of Pistachios & How To Eat More Of 'Em.” Last on the list are walnuts, which contain remarkably high levels of omega-3s. That’s good news for those looking to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the “13 Proven Health Benefits of Walnuts.”

Minute 3: Measure your fitness with these tests

If you think back to your time as a student, you’ll probably recall the dreaded feeling of walking into class to find a pop quiz sitting on your desk. Well, brace yourself, because we’re throwing a test your way. Actually, make that 21 tests. We don’t expect anyone to complete every challenge, but pick and choose your favorites from the list in: “Assessing Your Fitness: Guide to 21 Fitness Tests.” There’s something for everyone here, with ways to check your speed, strength, explosiveness, endurance, mobility, and more. If you want to assess your full body fitness, the CrossFit workout of the day known as the Fran WOD is a good place to start. Time yourself to see how long it takes to complete thrusters and pullups in sets of 21, 15, and then 9 reps. Down here in Austin, Texas, for The Running Event trade show, we bumped into Jamie Monroe last night. He is a successful race director now, but in a former life he was a Navy SEAL. Jamie compiled a series of military tests that you can access on his website: ReadyFit. He’s assembled the tests from all branches of the armed services and many of them feature a running component, so our readers may have some fun with these exams. The SEAL test, for example, involves a 1.5 mile run. The minimum time is 10:30, but a competitive result is more like 9:30. While we’re on the subject of full body conditioning, runners would do well to remember the tips in: “Runners: how to strength train without injuring yourself.” If hitting the gym has you feeling a bit like a fish out of water, know that it’s totally fine to work with low weight or reduced range of motion as you get accustomed to the lifts. In fact, some weightlifters find that partial reps are useful for both building muscle mass and targeting your muscles’ weak spots. For more on that, check out “How to Use Partial Reps to Develop Strength and Size.”

Minute 4: Can new weight loss drugs be an option for all?

For all of the remarkable innovation in medical technology and therapies, perhaps the biggest medical miracle would be an overhaul in the American healthcare system’s accessibility and affordability. A prime example of this is the economic disparity among typical users of weight loss drugs like Ozempic, which we touched on in Minute 2 of this issue. The initial rap on Ozempic was that it is a vain indulgence for celebs and the ultra wealthy. With a price tag north of $1,000 per month, it is true that this treatment is not making its way to the folks who need it most – more than 40% of U.S. adults are obese and that number climbs to greater than 50% in lower income zip codes. According to the editorial board of the Washington Post, it doesn’t have to be that way: “How to make powerful new obesity drugs available to all.” First, we should note that these drugs don’t just make you look better in a bathing suit. For people struggling with severe weight issues, Ozempic has been shown to lower the risk of joint pain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and other ailments connected to obesity. According to the Post, Step 1 is continuing R&D. If more providers can deliver a variety of drugs like Ozempic, competition can help drive prices down. Next is Medicare reform. Currently, Medicare cannot cover weight-loss drugs thanks to a regulation from a time where obesity was seen as a personal failure, and not a consequence of biological and societal factors too. Doctors have come to think differently about a lot of weight related issues, including the use of the BMI scale as a health indicator, because “Being overweight may not be associated with early death, study says.” BMI can’t distinguish between people who are “overweight” due to a high volume of muscle mass vs. body fat. These days, doctors are having greater success screening for weight related comorbidities by looking at waist circumference instead.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

In Minute 1 of our last issue, we dove into the pain cave with Courtney Dauwalter and came out stronger than ever. Dealing with pain as an athlete is one of the greatest tests of discipline, and we’ll take all the advice we can get from veterans of the sport to learn how to deal with it. That’s why we were enthralled to come across this post from Dani Mateo, a Spanish Olympic marathoner. Click this link to find out how to “Act as an Athlete Lesson 1: Self-Discipline.”

Doing a speed workout for the first time is difficult but rewarding. Doing the same workout for the hundredth time in a row? That’s downright tortuous. We think that variety is the spice of life, and a necessary component of any well rounded training plan, which is why we loved learning about these “7 Great Speed Workouts For 5k Performance Improvement!”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Hero worship alert! As mentioned above, we are down in Austin for a big running trade show. We rubbed elbows (literally) with Meb today, but we got really giddy when we saw @lauramcgreen across the expo floor. We have featured her many times here in Minute 6 because we think Laura is the funniest person in running. Her IRL persona did not disappoint. In her latest running culture observation, Laura explores the variety of people running a Turkey Trot. There are those who treat it as a fun way to burn off extra servings of stuffing, while others seem as if they are chasing a PR in a World Marathon Major. Whatever camp you fall into, we’ll refrain from judgment. If you want to laugh along with us, check out the latest post from Laura below.

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