New Delhi August 5: Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired.
Exercise (physical and mental) is one of the most important thing you can do to overcome or lessen insomnia. It can help you to fall asleep easier and faster and sleep more restfully and deeper when you do. For some people, exercise by itself is enough to overcome their insomnia.
Why Exercise Promotes Sleep
Exercise helps you to sleep better for a couple of reasons. Exercise is a beneficial stressor to the body. The brain compensates for the physical stress by increasing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep (stage 4 sleep).
Exercise also encourages sleep because it causes one’s body temperature to rise and then fall by equal amount a few hours later. This drop in your body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
When to Exercise to Combat Insomnia
To overcome insomnia, it’s probably best to exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. If you must exercise earlier than this, then by all means do so, but exercising at this time may not be as effective in combating insomnia as exercising later in the day.
You should not exercise in the late evening or just prior to going to bed. Exercise at this time of the day will not give your body enough time to cool down and calm down, making it difficult to sleep. If this time is the only opportunity you have to exercise, then make it a light exercise, nothing approaching strenuous.
Bottom line: Try to exercise three to six hours before bedtime to get the maximum sleep benefits.
Keep Your Body & Mind Confused
To benefit as much as possible from exercise, you don’t want to do the exact same thing all of the time.
Your body and mind will get used to the exercise you are performing and they will not be as stimulated by it. In fact, if you get used to it enough, it will hardly be exercise at all. Not to mention, it will also be becoming boring, and this means you will be less likely to do it, if you do it at all.
Also, by making yourself do different exercises, or at least variations on the same exercise, you are exercising your mind because it must first think to come up with something at least a little different and then work to properly learn and perform the new exercise or variation. If you don’t struggle to some degree when you exercise, then you aren’t really exercising.
Best Exercises for Sleep
There are two types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic means “with oxygen.” Aerobic exercises increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Examples of aerobic exercises include jogging, walking, swimming, bicycling, jumping rope, dancing, riding a stationary bicycle, and using a treadmill.
Anaerobic, or nonaerobic, means “without oxygen.” Anaerobic exercises, such as slow walking, bowling, or strength training with weights, are important to your overall fitness.
Aerobic exercises, however, are probably the best to combat sleeplessness. However, if you dislike aerobic exercise but like anaerobic, then doing anaerobic is certainly better than no exercise. And anaerobic exercises alone will likely help you sleep better, just probably not as well as aerobic ones.
To help yourself to sleep well, you should get 15-45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on a daily or near daily basis. The physical activity does not need to be performed at all one time. It can be broken up throughout the day. If you want to exercising longer or engage in high intensity activity, then do so. Just make sure you are healthy enough for it.
Just as we need to be physically active to sleep well, we also need to be mentally active.
Mental exercise, like physical exercise, has been shown to result in better sleep. To put it differently, boredom or a lack of mental activity can reduce the need to sleep and contribute to insomnia, just as a lack of physical exercise can.
Strong mental activity encourages improved sleep because it is a positive stressor on the mind, and the brain will recuperate from this activity and process it by sleeping more deeply.
By doing things differently than you normally do, you knock the dust off much of your brain and force it to work hard, instead of just going through the motions with ease. And a brain that gets worked hard is a brain that sleeps well. Not to mention that doing things differently will add some spice & variety to your life.