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Wake Up to the Importance of Exercise

Working Out Improves Sleep Patterns

You stayed up late last night to finish a project, woke up groggy only to realize that you’d slept through the alarm clock, skipped breakfast, then almost fell asleep in the middle of an important morning meeting. It’s now mid-afternoon and, as you’re having yet another cup of coffee to stifle yet another yawn, you realize you’re seemingly sleep walking through your days.

You’re not the only one. Nightly sleep for the average American has dropped from 10 hours (before the invention of the lightbulb) to 6.9 hours, with a third of adults now getting even less than that! In fact, nearly half of all adults admit they sleep less so they can work (or play) more, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Although most experts agree that the average adult needs eight hours, most of us have burned our candle at both ends.

But how do you get off this "sleep deficit" merry-go-round? It's easy to say, "get more sleep" but what if you're simply spending frustrating hours tossing and turning, and having trouble finding deep slumber?

First, it’s important to be aware that sleep is not a passive activity. Healthy sleep is every bit as valuable to your overall well-being as exercise and good nutrition. Research shows that a lack of deep sleep (as opposed to irregular or fragmented sleep) undermines the body's ability to fight off disease. Perpetual sleepiness can reduce the quality and quantity of your work by a third, according to the NSF. In fact, if you’re sleep-deprived you’re likely to have higher concentrations of sugar in your blood, which could contribute to development of a pre-diabetic condition.

If you’re having major problems in your sleep life, you probably should consult a doctor. But for most of us who are having trouble sleeping, there’s a simple cure: exercise. Working out regularly has been shown to reduce episodes of insomnia. What’s more, it promotes improved sleep quality by producing smoother, more regular transitions between the cycles and phases of sleep.

Moderate exercise lasting 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week generally results in better sleep and more energy. You may have to find your own exercise rhythm-– some people can exercise any time, while others do better if they work out in the morning or afternoon, not near bedtime. But, vigorous exercise during the day and mild exercise before bedtime will not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily, but will increase the amount of time you spend in deepest sleep phase (Stage 4 sleep).
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • SUSANB438
    Daring the week 4 night it is hard for me.
    I work Monday Tuesday Thursdays And Fridays from 2:00 until 6:00p.m
    I don't get home until after 6 p. M. - 10/4/2014 8:33:31 PM
  • I have no problem falling asleep, my challenge is waking in the wee hours. On days I exercise, I do tend to sleep better, not wake as often and have more energy the following day. Another great motivation to be active daily. Thanks for the great article. - 2/28/2014 3:44:27 PM
  • At night, I have no trouble falling asleep but do have problems staying asleep. - 10/29/2013 7:13:02 AM
  • Thank you for sharing. I will try some of these methods.
    - 9/30/2013 2:52:32 PM
  • Thanks for sharing - 8/30/2013 6:37:33 AM
  • Not always the case. I seem to go in cycles. . . . Recently on the 'not so much' sleep cycle . . . although I am working out and eating right . . . and meditating and relaxation . . . and taking melatonin. . . . hmmmm - 8/26/2013 4:27:30 PM
  • I'm sleeping better since I started exercising. I realize now that being totally sedentary was causing a build up of muscle tension. Also finding that just five minutes of gentle yoga before turning out the lights helps me fall asleep better. - 5/26/2013 11:30:26 PM
  • When I came home from the doctor and I was away from home fir three months I could not sleep good for the pain in my hip. So I started to exercise and change my eating habits. My hubby say to me alot oh you slept well last night. Because I would get up and let him sleep because he had to get up at five in the morning. But if it's going to rain I will not sleep goodbecause of the pain in my hip - 5/22/2013 7:29:21 AM
  • I've been working on getting to bed by 9p so I can get up at 3a do 30 min on the treadmill then get ready for work. I bring my meals with me everyday and try to keep it healthy. I work 12-13.5 hrs, try to do another 10-20 min on the treadmill, shower, and jump into bed. Right now I have no problem going to sleep. I do however try to delay by watching TV. I love my shows. I do get a little more sleep on the days I'm off. - 5/27/2012 11:41:41 AM
    Due to a few years of big STRESSFUL situations ~ I started self-medicating by watching old movies on my pc. this led to lots of radiation and I couldn't turn them off ~ it felt like I was strapped to my couch.

    I Knew 6 hours of resulting sleep was horrible but found it so hard to change as now my adrenals were wired and got a second wind in the late evening.

    Answer to all in same boat: get Rescue Remedy Insomnia Spray. 2 tiny sprays in mouth and voila, I am yawning and go to bed to read about 8:30 to 9:30 pm and lights are out within 20 min. I sleep like a baby and I am turning my life around! so I can get up early and live my life, exercise, take a walk, yoga or just relax and be with me instead of the
    frantic treadmill of running late all day and running so very low on energy due to my past late nights and boucou radiation I got from late night pc movie viewing.

    try it! if it can work for me ~ surely it can work for anyone!

    Always maintain only a joyful mind - - Pema Chodrun
    Nell - 4/29/2012 10:56:56 AM
  • I like to sleep nine hours every night. - 1/3/2012 10:33:08 PM
    I find it interesting that the older people in my life as a child were farmers/gardeners who could work me into the ground, but always got close to ten hours sleep. I, too, have had times in my life when I had to work in power naps because family and work responsibilities interfered with my sleep. However, with sleep, I am healthier, happier and calmer and my family likes me better. LOL - 7/30/2011 8:30:22 AM
    Am sharing that we have a natural product made from milk to give you that deep sleep that we have been deprived of...with REM.
    Will be bringing in this product to the US in February 2012. My fb name is: Hani Ibrahim. Do contact me for further information. - 7/30/2011 7:59:05 AM
  • I am trying very hard to get a bit more sleep! I already get up at 5 o'clock to get ready for work, so I can't exercise before work. I always have to wait till I get home, which includes an hour of commuting in bad traffic. Between exercising, kids, husband, dinner, laundry, dogs...... sometimes it's tough to get to sleep at a good hour!! I think it's my biggest goal that I still need to reach. - 6/20/2011 1:15:25 PM
    I exercise at least 4-5 times a week, always before work. Which means I get up around 5:15 a.m and hit the gym. I am really having a lot of trouble falling asleep these past 2 weeks. I do have a major lifestyle change, seperating from my husband, but have maintained my strict workout routine.

    Any suggestions......
    .. I eat healthy (lost 78 lbs to date) and only drink caffeine early in the am. I'm open for any thoughts. :) thank you - 6/19/2011 9:39:45 PM

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