Exercise can affect your sleep, according a poll conducted last year by the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation.
The 2013 “Sleep in America” poll found that self-described exercisers report better sleep than self-described non-exercisers, even though they say they sleep the same amount each weeknight: an average of six hours and 51 minutes.
“I tell my patients to try to exercise five days a week for 30 minutes at a time. If they can’t get that much exercise, I tell them to do what they can, and 15 minutes is OK,” said Dr. Philip B. Fuller, a physician at Mary Washington Healthcare’s Sleep Medicine Specialists, in Fredericksburg, Va. “And exercise seems to be one of the only things that’s been shown to reliably increase deep sleep, which has important benefits for memory and energy recovery.”
Vigorous exercisers are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report having “a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night during the week. They also are the least likely to report sleep problems.
Non-exercisers tend toward being more excessively sleepy than exercisers. Nearly one-fourth of them qualify as “sleepy” using a standard excessive sleepiness clinical screening measure.
One in seven non-exercisers reported having trouble staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity at least once a week in the past two weeks, almost three times the rate of those who exercise. They also had more symptoms of sleep apnea, which often include fatigue, snoring and high blood pressure, and which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
To improve your sleep, try the following sleep tips:
• Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
• Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
• Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
• Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
• Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
• Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
• Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day.
• If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
• If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.