Getting enough sleep each night is vital for your health. Good quality sleep improves your brain performance, mood, and health. Not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders. These range from heart disease and stroke to obesity and dementia. Unfortunately, nearly 25% of Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. However, there is very strong evidence that exercise can be beneficial to improving quality and quantity of sleep.
Exercise comes in two forms, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise provides cardiovascular conditioning by increasing the heart rate and the body’s use of oxygen. Examples of aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, are: brisk walking, light biking, elliptical machines, etc… Anaerobic exercises are short bursts of intense activity. Common anaerobic exercises include: weight lifting, sprinting, and high-intensity interval training.
A study performed by Dr. Kathryn J Reid and others, found that aerobic exercise had strong positive results on a group of participants who’d previously regularly encountered sleep problems. This study was further reinforced by a study at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. However, the Northwestern study proved that one bout of exercise will not make a significant difference in sleeping habits. In fact, even two months of sustained cardio exercise had only minimal effects in sleep changes. It took participants 16 weeks of regular cardiovascular exercise to have an affect on sleep. But, those who were able to continue a steady cardio routine improved their quantity of sleep by an additional 75 minutes per night.
Getting it right
- Aim for 2.5 hours of cardio each week
- Couple cardio with some form of resistance work
- Give it time (16 weeks to be exact, but its worth it)
Sleep is a very underrated and cost effective means to improving your health. We all have to access to it and we all need it. If you are not getting enough sleep, try to adopt the above recommendations on exercise. Good luck!
Dr Spencer Charlet
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