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 Sleep  Holistic-online.com

Alternative and Integral Therapies

Exercise

People who regularly engage in exercise have fewer episodes of sleeplessness. Exercise promotes improved sleep quality by allowing smoother and more regular transition between the cycles and phases of sleep.

Moderate exercises lasting 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week will help you sleep better and give you more energy. Exercise in the morning or afternoon, not close to bedtime.

Vigorous exercise during the day and mild exercise at bedtime will not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily but will increase the amount of time you spend in deepest Stage 4 sleep. For some people, exercise alone is sufficient to overcome their sleep problems.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers studied the effects of exercise on the sleep patterns of adults aged fifty-five to seventy-five who were sedentary and troubled by insomnia. These adults were asked to exercise for twenty to thirty minutes every other day in the afternoon by walking, engaging in low-impact aerobics, and riding a stationary bicycle. The result? The time required to fall asleep was reduced by half, and sleep time increased by almost one hour.

Benefits of Exercise

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Exercise reduces stress by helping to dissipate the lactic acid that accumulates in the blood.

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Exercise eases the muscular tension that can build up.

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Exercise sharpens the brain by increasing the amount of oxygen available.

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Exercise strengthens and stimulates the heart and lungs.

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Exercise vitalizes the nervous system.

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Exercise activates the endocrine system.

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Exercise increases the body's production of endorphins. Endorphin creates a sense of well-being and increases the body's resistance to pain.

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Exercise stimulates the release of epinephrine, a hormone that creates a sense of happiness and excitement.

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Exercise reduces the boredom, worry, and tension.

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Exercise improves sleep because it is a physical stressor to the body. The brain compensates for physical stress by increasing deep sleep. Therefore, we sleep more deeply and soundly after exercise. 

Exercise to Combat Sleeplessness

Two findings about exercise are particularly relevant to insomniacs.

  1. Insomniacs lead more sedentary lives than good sleepers. The lack of physical activity can contribute to insomnia by inhibiting the daily rise and fall of the body-temperature rhythm. As a result, many people get caught in a cycle of insomnia, reduced energy and physical activity, and worsened insomnia.

  2. Exercise improves sleep by producing a significant rise in body temperature, followed by a compensatory drop a few hours later. The drop in body temperature, which persists for two to four hours after exercise, makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The exercise you choose should involve vigorous use of your legs if it should help with your sleep. The fatigue produced by [using leg muscles] acts as a tranquilizer. 
Aerobic exercises are the best to combat sleeplessness. These exercises increase the amount of oxygen that reaches the blood. Examples of aerobic exercises are: jogging, swimming, riding a bicycle, jumping rope, dancing, riding a stationary bicycle, using a treadmill, and walking. A mild workout for fifteen to twenty minutes a day, four days a week, will be enough for you to feel the benefits. Stretch before and after you do anything vigorous. Allow yourself a cool-down period after exercising, before you stretch.

For many people, the ideal time to exercise is early in the morning. But for combating insomnia, the best time to exercise is at the end of the afternoon or in the early evening. If possible, however, avoid exercise in the late evening or just before going to bed. Exercise is stimulating to the body. It can take quite a while for your muscles and circulation system to calm down again after a vigorous workout.

Mild, non-aerobic exercise may help you unwind at the end of the day. 
Take a leisurely walk breathing deeply and allowing yourself to respond to the physical sensation of being outside.

Gentle dancing to pleasant music can help you lift your mood and relax your body. 
Yoga and stretching exercises are good ways to wind down.

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