Sleep is important for the overall health and well being of an individual. Nothing compares to a good night’s rest and waking up fresh and energetic each morning. Medical research conducted over the years however proves that 6 out of every 10 adults suffer from some sort of sleep disorder.
With young adults (in their 20s) susceptible to sleep disorders, crashes, injuries, and fatalities are rising at an alarming rate. One out of every four crashes are due to sleepiness of drivers that is just as risky as drunk driving.
What is unfortunate though, that most of us are ignorant about sleep disorder and seldom acknowledge the fact that something as simple as regular exercise may just be the solution to a long-standing problem. Regular and consistent exercise over a period of time can go a long way in improving the quality of sleep and even help with sleep issues such as insomnia.
Exercise and insomnia
Chronic insomnia can manifest in several ways such as the difficulty to fall or remain asleep, waking up too early or restless and non-restorative sleep that also triggers daytime sleepiness. Although there isn’t much empirical evidence to prove that exercise helps with insomnia, anecdotal evidence proves that moderate exercise regularly reduces insomnia by decreasing depressive symptoms such as anxiety and arousal.
Exercise may reduce insomnia through its impact on circadian rhythms. In other words, exercise may help adjust your body clock according to the time you choose to exercise. There is thus no denying that exercise has a positive impact on your sleep patterns. If you are suffering from any kind of sleep disorder, here are some ways in which exercise can help:
Improve duration and quality of your sleep
Any kind of physical exertion expends energy and raises your body temperature. While it gives you the physical boost and energy to work during the daytime, you begin to experience tiredness and the need to rest as the night sets in. If you maintain the same time and regimen of exercise over a period of time, you will notice that your body begins asking for rest at a particular time at night as well. A consistent sleep routine can thus bring in regularity in sleep patterns and improve quality of sleep to a great extent.
Exercise: A stress buster
One of the common causes of sleep disorders is stress. A regular exercise routine can help reduce stress levels to a considerable extent. Research shows that even 5 to 10 minutes of exercise every day can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body.
Medical research suggests that mind and body exercises such as yoga can not only have a positive impact on one’s mood but has a long lasting impact on the nervous system, enhancing one’s ability to relax. Consistent exercise over a period of time acts as a “mood booster”. Exercise essentially reduces blood pressure and lowers cortisol levels that uplifts the mood. Mood boosters through exercise can thus reduce stress and anxiety and address sleep disorders to a great extent.
How much exercise is too much?
Now that you now exercise can definitely act as a sleep booster, the question that may be running through your mind is how much exercise is necessary to help cope with sleep disorders and boosting general health. You may find it surprising that over exercising or over training can go against the very purpose of exercising to get sleep! What then is a solution?
Gym trainers suggest using your body’s internal clock or bio time to make the most of your exercise regime. Here are some ways in which you can do it.
Morning jog for better sleep- If your goal is to sleep more soundly, opt for a morning jog. Morning exercise boosts the ability to sleep better. However, be careful of over exercising too early in the morning when your body temperature is still low. Running or jogging too much when the body temperature is low will make the joints and muscles more susceptible to strain and injury.
Fasting workout for fat burning- If your aim is to cut the fat, try a fasting workout before breakfast. The fat burning rhythm resumes at the latter half of the day. A quick workout in the evening can help supress your appetite and make it easier to avoid overeating.
Enhance flexibility with morning and early evening exercise- If the main aim of exercising is to increase flexibility schedule your workouts when your body temperature is at its peak. For all human beings this is about three or four hours after waking and again in the early hours of the evening. Yoga is recommended in the early hours as it is relaxing for both the mind and body.
Exercise and bedtime
While exercise is helpful in more ways than one and can help sleep disorders, it is essential to be mindful of the timing of the exercise. No matter what your body type or exercise goal, stay away from exercising too close to bedtime, as it will interfere with your sleep patterns.
The reason for this is simple. The body temperature remains elevated for about three to four hours after you finish exercising. Higher body temperature hampers your ability to sleep. The human body is made in such a way that it cools down as it prepares for sleep. This means there is a drop in body temperature as bedtime approaches. This cooling of body temperature induces a feeling of drowsiness.
If you exercise too close to bedtime, you essentially reverse this shift in body temperature. As a result, instead of falling asleep, you are energised and remain awake. This is quite the opposite of the intention of exercising to sleep better.
Continuing this habit of exercising close to bedtime, may even to lead to sleep disorders such as chronic insomnia. If you indeed feel the need of moving your body, as a part of your bedtime ritual, consider a leisurely stroll or a light stretch to put your body and mind at rest before you finally doze off.