Using Exercise To Cure Insomnia
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder among adults. It is characterized by the inability to initiate or maintain sleep. Insomnia has no quick or perfect cure. And a lot of factors can contribute to one developing insomnia. Research has shown that exercises can help you fall asleep faster.
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercises, such as walking or cycling, can improve the quality of your nighttime sleep. Especially when it is done on a regular basis. What’s more, exercises may reduce their risk for developing troublesome sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome.
What’s The Exercise/Sleep Connection?
Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Exercise may also bolster sleep in other ways, because it reduces stress and tires you out. Early morning and afternoon exercise may also help reset the sleep-wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly. It then allows it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later. It can be especially helpful if you are able to exercise outdoors and let your body absorb natural sunlight during the daytime hours.
Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, there are many possibilities for how exercise may reduce insomnia severity. One way may be by the body-heating effects of exercise, especially when performed in the afternoon or later. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep. Exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Insomnia is commonly linked with elevated arousal, anxiety, and depression. And exercise has strong effects on reducing these symptoms in the general population.
Timing It Right
It used to be thought that working out vigorously too close to bedtime was a no-no for everyone, because it may over-stimulate the body. But it turns out that exercising at night doesn’t interfere with everyone’s sleep—it depends on the individual. So if you find that physical activity in the evening revs you up too much, do it earlier in the day. But if you find that the opposite is true—maybe you come home so exhausted that you plop down on the bed and fall asleep quickly—then, by all means, keep on doing what you’re doing!
We may not exactly know what types of exercise improve sleep the most, how much exercise is needed to improve sleep, and what time of day is best for exercise to improve sleep in people with insomnia. However, from the available evidence, exercise does hold great promise for improving the sleep of those with chronic insomnia.