It’s 2 a.m. You have a full day planned tomorrow, and you must be well rested for it. Yet, no matter what you do, you just can’t get comfortable. First, you are too hot, then you are too cold. You get drinks of water and then have to visit the bathroom. You toss and turn but you can’t get to sleep.
Does that sound familiar to you?
Insomnia can turn a normally well-adjusted person into a groggy, disorganized grouch. If you struggle with getting to sleep and staying asleep, there is great news for you. Researchers are finding that a simple thing like exercise influences the quality of many people’s sleep habits.
Anxiety leads to insomnia for many people. Often, people struggle to set their worries aside long enough to doze off, and if they are unlucky enough to wake in the night, worrying about problems can keep them up for hours.
Many doctors tell those who struggle with anxiety to exercise, because exercise tends to elevate people’s moods. Yet, this reduction of anxiety also extends to bedtime. In one month-long study, researchers looked at the sleep habits of 48 different people who were struggling with anxiety and insomnia. The people who exercised at a moderate intensity had less anxiety at bedtime and reported fewer incidences of insomnia. Those who exercised reported that they had less trouble getting to sleep, less trouble staying asleep, and they woke refreshed in the morning.
Even if anxiety doesn’t keep you awake, you can still have your sleep patterns improved by regular exercise. In the Journal of Adolescent Health, a study was published that explored the link between regular exercise and good sleep in teenagers. Teens who exercised reported less trouble falling asleep and less night waking than those who did not exercise. Additionally, another study reported that elderly people who struggled with insomnia experienced great improvement when they started exercising regularly.
A sixteen-week long study published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013, looked at the exercise-insomnia link in mostly sedentary adults. This study yielded some surprising results. Researchers divided the participants into a group that exercised daily and those who did not exercise. While the sleep habits of the exercising group did improve at the end of the study, the effects were not immediate. Many of the study participants did not start sleeping better even an entire two months after taking up a daily exercise routine. However, after the 16 weeks were over, all of the exercising participants slept about 45 to 60 minutes longer than the non-exercising group, and they were more rested upon waking.
The benefits of exercise are extensive, and it is exciting to know that there is a solution for insomnia that doesn’t include dangerous, potentially addictive drugs. Therefore, if insomnia has you regularly counting sheep, try to make time each and every day for a 20 to 30 minute moderately strenuous exercise routine. Getting a good night’s sleep can be as simple as tying on the tennis shoes and hitting the gym.