Exercise is the key to a good night’s sleep

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Recent sleep study shows an interesting correlation between sleep and exercise

Chester Regional Medical Center release

Exercise can affect your sleep.

The results of the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep in America poll show a compelling association between exercise and better sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation began surveying American sleep health and behaviors in 1991.
NSF releases the poll findings as part of its 16th annual National Sleep Awareness Week campaign, held March 3-10, that culminates with the change to Daylight Saving Time on March 10.

“If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, poll task force chair. “Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better.”

Vigorous exercisers are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report “I had a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night during the week. They also are the least likely to report sleep problems.

More than two-thirds of vigorous exercisers say they rarely or never (in the past two weeks) had symptoms commonly associated with insomnia, including waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep (72 percent) and difficulty falling asleep (69 percent). In contrast, one-half (50 percent) of non-exercisers say they woke up during the night and nearly one-fourth (24 percent) had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night.

Non-exercisers also have the highest risk for sleep apnea.

“Sometimes we might feel tired, and that’s normal,” says Matthew Buman, PhD, poll task force member. “But if excessive sleepiness is your normal state, it warrants a conversation with your doctor. It could be a red flag that something is wrong with your health.”

To improve your sleep, try the following sleep tips:

  • Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
  • Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
  • Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
  • If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
  • If you are experiencing drowsy driving, snoring, or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional.