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  • Exercise and Sleep

    By: Joann Bally CSCS

    Exercise can help with certain sleep disorders, especially insomnia. Sedentary people can improve sleep quality with consistent, moderate exercise such as brisk walking or low impact aerobics, 4 or 5 times a week. Of course, this can help other conditions as well. Exercise can improve circulation and improve mood. A release of endorphins may also help. Exercisers spend more time in slow wave, restorative sleep.

    If youíre really out of shape, you may do best exercising early in the day, so you will get over any minor soreness before bedtime. In general, research indicates exercise about 6 hours before bedtime is most effective in enhancing sleep for sedentary people. This interval results in your body temperature being a little lower when you go to bed, which enhances sleep.

    Exercising within a few hours of going to sleep can interfere with sleep because of too much arousal. This does not seem to hold for highly trained athletes who seem to be able to work out whenever they want without adverse effect on sleep.

    Exercising can make you a little tired and able to sleep better. Teenagers who exercise are more likely to get at least 8 hours sleep than those who donít exercise.

    Another way exercise can help is through contributing to weight loss. Obesity is linked to lack of sleep, and some sleep disorders are made worse by obesity.

    Exercise can help you sleep, and sleep can help your exercise. Natural growth hormone spikes during sleep, so if you work out, youíd better get enough sleep or you wonít get the results you want. If youíre very fatigued, you may want to skip a workout or do it later, when youíre more rested. Keep in mind that insomnia is one sign of overtraining. Sleep loss during one night wonít hurt your exercise performance, so donít let it bother you if you have insomnia before a big event. An elite runner once told me nobody really sleeps before a marathon.

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