In the previous lesson, I mentioned that exercise was important to get good sleep. Think of good health as a three-legged stool: one leg is getting good sleep, another is eating healthily, and the last is exercising. All three are important to having a healthy lifestyle, and they are all interconnected. While this course and everything that falls under the Sleep hygienist umbrella focus on sleep, I can't ignore these other two stool legs. I have been and will continue to teach you great sleeping techniques, but I would be remiss if I did not include something about food and exercise. When you eat right and exercise, you do sleep better. In this lesson, we'll look at exercise and weight-loss. In the next lesson, we'll tackle food and healthy eating.
Regular aerobic exercise such as walking and jogging has been found to improve several attributes of your sleep. It can help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, sleep more deeply, and wake up more energized. Interestingly, though, strenuous exercise, like running, is not any more beneficial to you than walking. Studies also show that two and a half hours of exercise a week significantly improves the quality of your sleep. This needs to be spread out to have a continual, consistent effect, though. You can't exercise for 2 and 1/2 hours once a week and expect to be good. In fact, too much exercise can hurt your sleep. But if you can get a good half-hour walk in 5 days a week, you'll quickly notice how you're sleeping improves.
Exercise during the daytime; outside if possible. As mentioned before, it is important to get exposure to the sun. If you take a walk outside on your lunch break at work, there are your five days of exercise and sunlight exposure.
Do not exercise too close to bedtime. While getting that exercising regularly is important, you don't want to exercise too close to bedtime. This is going to get your heart rate and body temperature up and makes it really hard to fall asleep. As the folks over at sleep.org say, “No, 9 pm CrossFit.”
Getting regular exercise has a number of positive benefits. It boosts your immune system, improves cardiac health, improves mental health, helps to reduce stress and anxiety, helps prevent or lessen the effects of several sleep disorders, and can ward off symptoms of restless leg syndrome. It can also help you to lose weight.
Speaking of weight, actively working to lose weight will help you sleep. Like exercise, weight loss helps you to fall asleep better, sleep more deeply, and stay asleep longer. One of the first interventions a sleep doctor recommends to treat sleep apnea is weight loss. I'm not a weight loss or exercise guru. I’m a sleep Guru, so for more information on proper weight loss and exercise advice, please seek out someone more knowledgeable. I only know the stuff about it that pertains to sleep.
In the next lesson, entitled, “Is Dinner Keeping You Awake?” we'll discuss how food affects your sleep. Until then, happy Zzz’s.