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Exercises to Help You Sleep

Sep. 9, 2015|902 views
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We all know how important sleep is to overall health. Sleep, exercise, and diet are arguably the three fundamental pillars of health. Research and common sense dictate that none of these can be ignored for long without serious health consequences. But, if I had to guess, I’d say that sleep is the one pillar of health that is ignored most often. I could bore you with statistics, but suffice it to say that sleep experts are worried that too many of us are operating too often on too little sleep. Sleep deprivation takes a toll not only on your reflexes, but on your ability to make logical decisions and even to think clearly. Perhaps worse, it tends to encourage overeating and poor dietary choices. A sleep-deprived body is often a carbohydrate-craving body.

Americans spend lots of money on sleep aids, of both the over-the-counter and prescription varieties, and insomnia appears to be something of an epidemic among older folks. So what’s a concerned person to do? Experts point out that certain sleep-related habits—which they call sleep hygiene—can increases the chances you’ll fall asleep quickly and stay asleep for the prescribed seven to nine hours most adults need. They include things like avoiding caffeine in the evening, avoiding exposure to artificial (especially blue-wavelength) light at night, and sleeping in a cool, completely dark room. People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are also warned to avoid eating for at least three hours before bedtime.

Common sense suggests that exercise during the day can help, too. Remember when you were a child, playing all day long in the summertime? You probably remember sleeping like a rock on those carefree nights—exhausted by a full day of constant activity. That’s the advantage of adequate exercise. It helps promote restful, restorative sleep.

Now, investigators at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have published research that has identified precisely what types of physical activity are best at promoting sleep. They identified aerobic activities, such as walking, doing Pilates, biking, running and even weight lifting, as activities that can promote good sleep at night. In contrast, other activities, such as doing housework or running around caring for children, tended to contribute to poor sleep.

“Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising,” said Michael Grandner, PhD. “Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf. It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep -- we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”

So there you have it. Activity is important, but doing enjoyable exercise appears to be best for promoting sleep. No one’s suggesting that you avoid doing housework, but don’t depend on it to help you sleep at night.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Study maps types of physical activity associated with better sleep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2015. .


Tags:  sleep, stress, prevention, obesity