Type-A personalities may chafe at having to “waste” one-third of the day sleeping, but studies have long proven that a good night’s sleep is necessary for optimal physical and mental health. Sleep improves focus, learning, and mood, as well as cardiovascular and immune-system functioning. Yet about one in three Americans will suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorder during their lifetime.
One natural remedy has proven to be nearly as effective as over-the-counter sleep aids: Exercise. Check out these five exercises to help you get a better night’s slumber.
Whether you bike, jog, swim or cycle, dedicating 150 minutes a week to vigorous aerobic exercise has been scientifically proven to show a 65% increase in quality of sleep. Physically active people sleep longer, more deeply, and don’t fall asleep over their lunch break.
The vigor of the activity matters. Regular but less vigorous exercise and strength training did show some sleep benefits, but not to the extent of activities that also improve cardiovascular conditioning.
Exposure to the sunlight during exercise has been shown to significantly improve sleep habits and quality. Thus outdoor activities like hiking, jogging, bicycling, etc. have an advantage over indoor gym-type aerobics when it comes to sleep quality.
Scientists speculate that the extended exposure to daylight may regulate sleep hormones for those that have lost touch with circadian rhythms.
Yoga has been shown to lower stress levels and calm the mind, all of which promotes good slumber. Performing a series of yoga stretches right before bedtime can also ease body aches and tightness and help you fall asleep more quickly.
How often have you gone to bed only to lie awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking about everything that happened during the day as well as everything you have to do tomorrow? Those hours you spend worrying are hours you should be sleeping. Training your mind to calm down requires exercise, too.
Many doctors recommend a series of breathing exercises before bed. Making these breathing exercises a nighttime routine can help you seize back all those hours lost to worry about your next project.
Mindful meditation, practiced twice a day, has been shown to improve sleep quality. It also helps to reduce daytime sleepiness and the assaults of everyday anxiety. With regular practice, you’ll be able to consciously shift your body out of stress mode into a relaxation mode conducive to better sleep.
Any exercise habit takes time and practice to take hold, but well worth the improvement to your health—and life.