How To Use Exercise To Aid In Sleeping Better!

Couple sleepingThe National Sleep Foundation states, among adults in the United States, up to 40% of the population has problems falling asleep or feeling sleepy during daytime hours. I first read about the relationship between exercise and sleeping in Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper's book Aerobics back in the 1960's.

A new study published in Respiratory Medicine found that subjects who suffer from sleep apnea, can significantly improve their sleep outcomes by exercise consistently. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 25 million adults also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is different and more common.

The study included sleep data from eight clinical articles and 180 participants and examined overall sleep as well as the number of disruptions per hour of sleep in people who also exercised daily. The authors found that subjects who exercised had fewer breathing interruptions at night and this group also reported being less sleepy the next day.

Can exercise aid in sleeping better? Here are some answers to help you decide! Click To Tweet

Zapping The Anxiety That Keeps You Awake Through Consistent Exercise

One study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine found that participant who exercised (versus those who didn't) reported falling asleep faster and experienced better quality of sleep overall. (This was the same result that Dr. Cooper stated in his book.)

“The other reasons why exercise improves sleep still need further research,” says study author, Martina Mookadam, M.D., M.S. assistant professor of Family Medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. “One physiologic explanation is that some exercises may improve muscle tone of the upper airway. Additionally, exercise induces a deeper, more restorative sleep and this, in turn, helps restore a healthy diurnal rhythm [the internal body clock that helps sync your body's day and night cycles].”

But Won't Evening Exercise Interrupt My Sleep?

If your schedule is jam-packed and you're all stressed out, will exercising in the evening make it harder to fall asleep later that night? “I have patients who struggle with this decision all the time,” says Mookadam. “Perhaps vigorous exercise within two hours of bedtime may cause problems with initiating sleep due to increased adrenaline and heart rate. However, studies don't support this theory for everyone.”

In general, most people can exercise within 30-60 minutes of bedtime and still get a great night's sleep, she says. “If you do have problems dropping off after exercise, I recommend maintaining a 2-hour cooldown period before bedtime,” she says.

Here are some quick tips from the National Sleep Foundation for sleeping better before and after your workouts:

  • Try a sleep mask and a noise machine to limit light and noises
  • Keep a strict sleep schedule, even on the weekends, to create healthier sleep habits
  • If you can sneak in a nap, keep it to 15-20 minutes so you can sleep later on
  • Sleep on the most comfortable mattress and pillow
  • Turn off electronics before bed to avoid overstimulating your senses

“The best time to exercise in the real world, where people have jobs and family responsibilities, is anytime you can!” says Mookadam. “Some research suggests that exercising in the middle of the afternoon can help establish and maintain normal circadian rhythms. However, better sleep is associated with exercise at any time of the day.”

Sweet Dreams!

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