By Charlotte Varnes
Exercise is important, whether it be for staying in shape, becoming stronger, or simply as a hobby. Its benefits are endless including. It can improve mental health, increase your lifespan, strengthening muscles, and reduce risks of certain diseases and cancers. However, there is one important gain that tends to outweigh all of the other benefits: improved sleep. Sleep is obviously a huge part of all humans’ lives and the fact that exercise positively affects this is a huge win.
For those with pre-existing sleep disorders, such as chronic insomnia, exercise has been proven to improve a person’s ability to fall asleep faster. In a study discussed by the National Sleep Foundation, adults with chronic insomnia who completed 4 to 24 weeks of consistent exercise tended to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have an overall better quality of sleep than those who did not exercise. This clearly shows the benefits of exercising regularly has on sleep and shows the important gains that can be made when making an activity a daily habit for a long period of time. However, all exercise is not created equal-- some forms of activity can lead to better sleep after just ONE day. In a separate study, the National Sleep Foundation discovered that those who participated in a moderate form of exercise, such as walking, slept better the night off, while those who took part in a vigorous activity, such as running or weight-lifting, didn’t improve their sleep quality at all. Physical activity clearly benefits sleep, but choosing moderate rather than vigorous exercise may serve to improve quality faster than vice versa.
Not just those with sleep disorders can greatly benefit from exercise; everyone can improve their sleep quality by adding physical activity into their daily routine. According to Dr. Charlene Gamaldo, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, moderate exercise for just 30 minutes a day can lead to improved sleep quality. This evidence is amazing for those with little time on their hands -- there is no huge amount of time needed to be taken out of the day, making it easy for anyone to achieve this. Additionally, exercise is proven to keep humans awake right afterward due to the release of endorphins, which can be helpful for those exercising in the early morning before heading to school or work. Between keeping humans awake during the daytime and putting us fast asleep at night, exercise serves to benefit at all times of the day.
For those looking to begin exercising, researchers have a few recommendations. Dr. Christopher Kline of the University of Pittsburgh recommended forms of moderate exercise such as the elliptical and brisk walking to get the heart rate going, with a total time of two and a half hours a week. Dr. Shawn Youngstedt of Arizona State University emphasized that the time of exercise does not matter -- whether you prefer morning or night is an individual decision and does not have any bearing on the quality of sleep.
Ultimately, exercise can lead to better quality of sleep for everyone, but certain activities, such as doing moderate exercises and taking part for more than half an hour, serve to improve sleeping conditions more than other activities. If looking for improved sleep, exercise is a safe, easy option.
“How Does Exercise Help Those with Chronic Insomnia?” National Sleep Foundation, National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia.
“Exercising for Better Sleep.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-better/exercising-for-better-sleep.
LaMotte, Sandee. “The Healthiest Way to Improve Your Sleep: Exercise.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 May 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/05/29/health/exercise-sleep-tips/index.html.
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