by Tracy Hartley PT, DPT
You may say, “I’m too tired to exercise. I’m beat.” I say, “You’re too tired NOT to exercise.” Let me explain.
Insomnia or sleeplessness is commonly defined as sleeping difficulties. Insomnia is a sign or symptom that is described as difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. A poll by the National Sleep Foundation indicated that nearly 60% of adults in the U.S. frequently experience insomnia. Adults 55 and older participating in the survey were more likely to experience insomnia associated with a medical condition such as sleep apnea or depression.
Insomnia treatment typically includes one or more of the following:
- CPAP machine that is worn during sleep hours to open the airway.
- Non-pharmacological approaches including EEG feedback, behavioral interventions, patient education, and relaxation therapy.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy that realigns one’s sleep needs with sleep misconceptions and expectations.
- Sedative hypnotic medications that are used or should be used for short-term purposes. Tolerance build up and dependence are highly likely with long-term use. Also, long-term use of these medications is not fully understood with regard to sleep.
At this point you may be thinking, “Is that it? Is that all I can do for those restless nights?” That was my same thought. But, wait. There is one more option.
A recent randomly controlled trial looked at various intensities of exercise and subjective reports of sleep quality. Sedentary, overweight subjects with insomnia were randomly placed into 1 of 4 groups. Three groups performed 35 minutes of aerobic exercise at 3 different intensities, 4 days per week. The intensities were measured and controlled using sophisticated equipment that calculated calories burned based on oxygen consumption. The fourth or control group performed no aerobic activity. The following is a summary of the study’s findings:
- The control group reported no differences in sleep difficulties.
- All exercise groups reported significant changes in sleep quality compared to baseline measurements and the control group.
- Improvements in sleep quality increased according to increases in exercise intensity.
There you have it! This study clearly showed a positive relationship between aerobic exercise and improved sleep in sedentary subjects. Aerobic exercise can improve your sleep! Your so tired that you need to exercise.