Fitness Articles

Wake Up to the Importance of Exercise

Working Out Improves Sleep Patterns

1SHARES
You stayed up late last night to finish a project, woke up groggy only to realize that you’d slept through the alarm clock, skipped breakfast, then almost fell asleep in the middle of an important morning meeting. It’s now mid-afternoon and, as you’re having yet another cup of coffee to stifle yet another yawn, you realize you’re seemingly sleep walking through your days.

You’re not the only one. Nightly sleep for the average American has dropped from 10 hours (before the invention of the lightbulb) to 6.9 hours, with a third of adults now getting even less than that! In fact, nearly half of all adults admit they sleep less so they can work (or play) more, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Although most experts agree that the average adult needs eight hours, most of us have burned our candle at both ends.

But how do you get off this "sleep deficit" merry-go-round? It's easy to say, "get more sleep" but what if you're simply spending frustrating hours tossing and turning, and having trouble finding deep slumber?

First, it’s important to be aware that sleep is not a passive activity. Healthy sleep is every bit as valuable to your overall well-being as exercise and good nutrition. Research shows that a lack of deep sleep (as opposed to irregular or fragmented sleep) undermines the body's ability to fight off disease. Perpetual sleepiness can reduce the quality and quantity of your work by a third, according to the NSF. In fact, if you’re sleep-deprived you’re likely to have higher concentrations of sugar in your blood, which could contribute to development of a pre-diabetic condition.

If you’re having major problems in your sleep life, you probably should consult a doctor. But for most of us who are having trouble sleeping, there’s a simple cure: exercise. Working out regularly has been shown to reduce episodes of insomnia. What’s more, it promotes improved sleep quality by producing smoother, more regular transitions between the cycles and phases of sleep.

Moderate exercise lasting 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week generally results in better sleep and more energy. You may have to find your own exercise rhythm-– some people can exercise any time, while others do better if they work out in the morning or afternoon, not near bedtime. But, vigorous exercise during the day and mild exercise before bedtime will not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily, but will increase the amount of time you spend in deepest sleep phase (Stage 4 sleep).

In fact, in a study on sleep patterns of adults aged 55 to 75 who were sedentary and troubled by insomnia, exercise was shown to play a key role. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine asked these adults to exercise 20 to 30 minutes every other day in the afternoon by walking, engaging in low-impact aerobics, and riding a stationary bicycle. The result? Time required to fall asleep was reduced by half, and total sleep time increased by almost one hour.

What’s more, exercise offers many other mental benefits:
  • Reduces stress by helping to dissipate the lactic acid that accumulates in your blood
  • Sharpens your brain by increasing the amount of oxygen available
  • Eases built-up muscular tension
  • Strengthens and stimulates your heart and lungs
  • Stimulates your nervous system
  • Increases your production of endorphins— those little substances which create a sense of well-being and increase your body's resistance to pain
  • Stimulates release of epinephrine, a hormone that creates a sense of happiness and excitement
  • Increases deep sleep, as the brain compensates for physical stress
Shakespeare didn’t know about sleep studies when he wrote about "sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care," but it seems he did know one thing—there’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
1SHARES

Member Comments

  • PHHHISC
    I definitely agree with this article.
  • This can help me out. Good article.
  • I can sleep standing up when I'm tired, but there are times when I am just not tired. I usually do not eat after 7pm at night and go to bed around 10pm. Some nights I have trouble staying asleep. Once I wake up, I'm up. (for instance to go to the bathroom). I try not to drink a whole lot after 7pm either. When I wake up, I get my book and read or if it isn't too close to getting up time, I will heat up some hot chocolate and sip on that. It usually does the trick and I can fall back to sleep and stay there.
  • Exercise has certainly helped. For me, what seems to be most important for restful sleep is a light dinner, not eating after dinner and allowing at least 3 hours between dinner and bedtime. If I eat a larger dinner, more time between dinner and bed is required of me for restful sleep.
  • SUSANB438
    Daring the week 4 night it is hard for me.
    I work Monday Tuesday Thursdays And Fridays from 2:00 until 6:00p.m
    I don't get home until after 6 p. M.
  • I have no problem falling asleep, my challenge is waking in the wee hours. On days I exercise, I do tend to sleep better, not wake as often and have more energy the following day. Another great motivation to be active daily. Thanks for the great article.
  • At night, I have no trouble falling asleep but do have problems staying asleep.
  • Thank you for sharing. I will try some of these methods.
  • Thanks for sharing
  • Not always the case. I seem to go in cycles. . . . Recently on the 'not so much' sleep cycle . . . although I am working out and eating right . . . and meditating and relaxation . . . and taking melatonin. . . . hmmmm
  • I'm sleeping better since I started exercising. I realize now that being totally sedentary was causing a build up of muscle tension. Also finding that just five minutes of gentle yoga before turning out the lights helps me fall asleep better.
  • When I came home from the doctor and I was away from home fir three months I could not sleep good for the pain in my hip. So I started to exercise and change my eating habits. My hubby say to me alot oh you slept well last night. Because I would get up and let him sleep because he had to get up at five in the morning. But if it's going to rain I will not sleep goodbecause of the pain in my hip
  • I've been working on getting to bed by 9p so I can get up at 3a do 30 min on the treadmill then get ready for work. I bring my meals with me everyday and try to keep it healthy. I work 12-13.5 hrs, try to do another 10-20 min on the treadmill, shower, and jump into bed. Right now I have no problem going to sleep. I do however try to delay by watching TV. I love my shows. I do get a little more sleep on the days I'm off.

About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 9! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.