Can’t sleep?  Are you exercising?  Why sleep and exercise are so important to your general well-being.

Believe it or not, tossing and turning in the middle of the night is not a suitable form of exercise.  But studies suggest making time for an actual workout during the day could be key to a better night’s sleep.  For years you have been told by your doctor, friends, even your mum you need to eat better and exercise more.  It’s in the media every day.  But now there is evidence that exercise will not only improve your health but will also help you sleep better.

Insomnia which is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, waking too early in the morning or in the night and being unable to fall back to sleep, is the most common sleep disorder among adults.  It is thought exercise may reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms.  Insomnia is commonly linked with elevated arousal, anxiety and depression.  Exercise has strong effects on reducing these symptoms in the general population. For people with insomnia due to the timing of their body clock, exercise may shift its timing depending upon the time exercise is performed.

Now there is evidence to show that exercise can improve sleep.  Scientists at North Western University say sleep problems affect millions of adults, who could likely improve their quality of sleep, vitality, and mood with regular exercise. Investigators studied 23 sedentary adults, mostly women aged 55 years and older, who had a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep and also reported impaired daytime functioning.

The participants were randomly placed in one of two groups.

One group exercised for two 20-minute sessions four times a week and the other did a 30 – 40 minute workout four times a week. This went on in both groups for 16 weeks, with participants exercising to 75% of their maximum heart rate on at least two activities, such as riding a stationary bicycle, walking, or exercising on a treadmill.

In the control group, participants didn’t exert themselves physically but only mentally, taking part in recreational or educational activities, such as attending a cooking class or listening to a museum lecture. This group met for about 45 minutes, three to five times a week, also for 16 weeks.

Researchers say the participants who exercised reported that their sleep quality improved, raising their diagnosis from poor to good sleeper. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime.

The benefits of regular exercise are endless – it reduces stress levels and anxiety, lowers the risk of many diseases, and makes us shiny, happy people but when exercise helps improve sleep quality then if you are not sleeping well why would you not consider this as an option.  Getting sweaty during the day should make for an easier lights out. What have you got to lose?