Sleep quality and overall health are enhanced by regular exercise at any time of day according to a new study released during National Sleep Awareness Week.
So if you want to fend off insomnia, consider exercising more.
The National Sleep Foundation “2013 Sleep in America” Poll surveyed 1,000 adults between the ages of 23 and 60 and found that among light and moderate exercisers and even gym rats, they all reported getting a good night’s sleep, and were twice as likely to sleep soundly as those who were sedentary couch potatoes. Both groups reported sleeping about the same amount each night (roughly 7 hours), so it is the quality rather than the quantity of the sleep that is at issue.
The study concluded that a “compelling association” exists between exercise and better sleep.
For purposes of the survey, vigorous exercise included running or swimming or competitive sports; moderate included yoga, tai chi, or weights, and light physical activity primarily involved walking.
For those who don’t get off the couch, the self-reported results were troubling according to the Boston Globe:
“… one-half of those who didn’t exercise reported waking up during the night on a regular basis and nearly one-fourth had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night.”
Those who don’t exercise also are more at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel or suffering with sleep apnea among other things.
Moreover, contrary to popular belief, at least based on these findings, exercising in the late evening seems to have no negative effects on getting to bed afterward, as the National Sleep Foundation explained:
“Those who report exercising close to bedtime and earlier in the day do not demonstrate a difference in self-reported sleep quality. In fact, for most people exercise at any time seems to be better for sleep than no exercise at all.”
Improving your sleep with exercise doesn’t necessarily involve grunting and groaning while pumping iron either. Sleep researcher Dr. Max Hirshkowitz of Baylor University who headed up the survey said:
“If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep. Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better.”
Dr. Hirshkowitz added some caveats to the findings about sleep and exercise, however:
“Our poll data certainly find strong relationships between good sleep and exercise. While cause and effect can be tricky, I don’t think having good sleep necessarily compels us to exercise. I think it is much more likely that exercising improves sleep. And good sleep is fundamental for good health, productivity, and happiness.”
In this computer-drive world, the survey also cautioned that desk jockeys — i.e., those who sit for more than eight hours a day — are less likely to enjoy better sleep quality. With that mind, getting away from the keyboard for short breaks, stretching, and so forth are also recommended in addition to a regular exercise program.
As a rule, do you get up in the morning feeling rested? If not, are you getting enough exercise?
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