Exercise and Sleep

Exercise and sleep - you can't have one without the other. When I started developing sleep problems, I didn't need anyone to tell me that I needed to exercise more. Long days of commuting to work and sitting at a desk all day looking at a computer screen contributed to my sleep problems.

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By the time I got home in the evening I was too tired to exercise or  worried that exercise too close to bedtime would contribute to more problems falling asleep.

When I reduced my days commuting to work and started training for a half marathon, I found that sleep came to me, oh so sweetly.

Now you don't need to be running and you don't need to run for 13 miles to get the benefit of good sleep from exercise.

Let me tell you what the sleep experts say about what kind of exercise is needed, how long to exercise and how often one needs to get going to see some sleep benefits.

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In today's world, there's very little opportunity for natural exercise - walking to the store, biking to a friends house, or tending to a garden. So instead we need to plan it and commit to exercising.

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Exercise can benefit our sleep in several ways:

1. Uses muscles that are meant to be used

2. Helps to reduce stress and anxiety

3. Helps to control our weight and reduces one's risk of sleep apnea

4. If you exercise outside it exposes us to the sun which helps to optimize our levels of Vitamin D

5. Helps to minimize joint and back pain which can keep one awake at night

6. Helps to "reset" our circadian rhythm sleep wake cycle.

7.  Helps to reduce elevated cortisol levels

How Much Exercise and When

Dr. Michael Breus, the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (Hardcover) instructs us to:

1. Exercise thirty minutes or more at least 5 days a week and preferably 6 days

2. Engage in aerobic exercise that gets the heart rate up. Aerobic exercise helps us to fall asleep quicker and to experience deeper sleep.

3. Exercise at a time of day that doesn't affect your ability to fall asleep. You will need to experiment with this for yourself. If the only time you can exercise is in the evening after work, try it.

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