Benefits of Exercise For Sleep Disorders

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Benefits of Exercise For Sleep Disorders

It is clear that exercise has multiple positive effects on health. Improvement in overall sense of well-being, memory, depression, blood pressure, decrease in stress levels, and lower cardiovascular disease risk have all been cited as benefits from regular exercise.

Exercise and Sleep

Multiple studies have demonstrated a significant relationship between exercise and sleep. What is often not considered is that a poor night’s sleep or insufficient sleep may impair the intensity, duration or even doing exercise the following day. Although this may represent a short term effect following a poor night’s sleep, it would seem to follow that continual poor sleep may impair one’s ability to exercise in a consistent manner.

People who exercise regularly have fewer complaints about their sleep than those who forego exercise. People who do not exercise complain of being sleepier during the day than those that do exercise.

Exercising with Insomnia

It is also abundantly clear that regular exercise can improve insomnia. This improvement can be seen with complaints of sleep onset insomnia or complaints of sleep maintenance insomnia. There have been various explanations for this consistent finding, although the exact mechanism remains unknown. Exercise may improve insomnia by decreasing stress and anxiety, diminishing sympathetic stimulation, or improving underlying depression. Improvement in insomnia by exercising has the potential of diminishing the need for sleeping pills and sedatives.

Physical Activity Helps Suppress RLS Symptoms

Exercise can also improve the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is defined as an overwhelming feeling to move one’s legs, which feel better when walking. Patients with complaints of restless legs often will complain of insomnia.

Sleep Apnea and Working Out

Sleep apnea, a syndrome characterized by repetitive episodes of little or no airflow while sleeping, is one of the most common sleep complaints. Interestingly, a study has demonstrated that exercise can lead to improvement in symptoms in patients suffering from sleep apnea, even in the absence of weight reduction.

Time Spent Exercising

How much exercise is enough? Review of studies suggest that obtaining 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week appears to be adequate to improve the duration and quality of poor sleep. That would equate to five 30-minute sessions per week, though dividing the 150-minutes into different lengths and intervals may also be effective. Note that some studies suggest this benefit may take up to 16 weeks to appreciate. In addition, there is some data in older people, that increasing intensity of the exercise above a moderate level may not be beneficial. Moderate exercise is often defined as the amount that allows one to talk for several sentences before feeling short of breath.

When to Exercise for Better Quality Sleep

When should one exercise? Some have suggested that morning exposure to sun while exercising may have benefits in improving sleep onset and duration; or that afternoon exercise may have additional benefits of sleep consolidation. It also has been preached that nocturnal exercise may impair sleep, but recent studies show that this occurs only in a minority of people. So the secret is to find out what works best for you.

The short answer is that the best time of day to exercise is that which will allow you to exercise regularly and consistently. Generally it seems that people that exercise in the morning are more likely to maintain a consistent schedule. Remember that exercising any time is better than not exercising at all.

Start Today

If you are having difficulties sleeping through the night and are sleepy during the day, exercise could be your ticket to breaking this pattern. Moderate physical activity can help in many different aspects of your life. Not only will exercise benefit your long-term health, but keeping active could positively influence the way you sleep and carry yourself throughout the day.

It is important to stress that human beings are not meant to sit all day, so get up stay active and exercise regularly. You will be glad you did.