Exercise Promotes Quality Sleep – 7 Ways to Improve Sleep

The most common sleep disorder in adults is insomnia, defined as difficulty falling asleep; staying asleep; and/or waking up too soon. Adults should be sleeping for 7-9 hours a night, every night! It’s vital for both physical and mental health. A chronic lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, weight gain and kidney disorders. Sleep is our bodies’ time to rest, rejuvenate, and rebuild.

A good night’s sleep is full of benefits:

  • reduced stress levels
  • reduced risk of depression
  • improved memory, focus, and creativity
  • longer lifespan
  • stronger immune response
  • contributes to healthy weight loss

Research shows that regular exercise is an important factor in getting quality sleep on a regular basis. In fact, recent research shows that exercise and sleep is a 2-way street (or bi-directional relationship). Those who exercise regularly (defined as 90-150 minutes a week; i.e. exercising for 30-minutes, three to five times a week) report the best quality sleep experiences. And those who report quality sleep are also able to exercise longer and more frequently.

7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

1. Move!

Even as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve your sleep. Those who exercise regularly report better quality and duration of sleep, as well as fewer incidences of sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Exercise is a known stress-buster, and less stress equals improved sleep.

2. Stick to a Schedule

Maintaining a regular sleep/wake schedule—including weekends—helps to reset and/or strengthen your circadian rhythm, including the hormones responsible for sleep. Spending time outdoors in daylight or sunshine also helps strengthen your circadian cycle.

3. Lose the Tech

Eliminate all technology for at least an hour before bedtime—cell phones, tablets, computers, and television. This reduces technology’s sleep-disturbing blue light emissions, and allows your mind to unwind. Dim all lighting for 1-2 hours before sleeping to increase levels of melatonin, a sleep hormone.

4. Nix the Nap

If you’re having any problems sleeping at night, then cut out any daytime sleeping. If this is not possible, then nap early in the day, and for no more than 20 minutes. If you’re tired mid-day, have a glass of water to ensure hydration (dehydrated people feel tired), or go for a walk outside, combining gentle movement with fresh air and natural light.

5. Cut the Caffeine

Eliminate caffeine from all sources from noon onwards. This includes the obvious sources of coffee and tea, but there’s caffeine in other food products, including chocolate, energy bars, and other packaged foods. Read the labels to be sure.

6. Take a Hot Bath

Bathing has been a calming activity for centuries, and a hot bath that raises your body temperature, followed by the cooling of your body temperature post-bath, induces sleep. Enhance your bath water with Epsom salts for relaxing magnesium, and add some stress reducing, relaxing essential oils, such as rose, lavender, or chamomile.

7. Get Comfy Cozy

Assess your bedroom and sleep habits and make any necessary adjustments. Soft, clean linens (seasonally appropriate for warmth), fresh air, and supportive pillows can all make a difference. Some people sleep better with a pillow between their knees to address joint pain issues. Some sleep better without children or pets in the bed. Some enjoy a spritz of lavender. Make your bed and bedroom the restful sanctuary you deserve!

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