We’re always being told that exercise invigorates your whole body and really releases energy, giving you a new lease of life. What it can also do is help you nod off. Not because you are bored of course, but because working out has long been touted as an antidote for insomnia, or at least worthwhile in the pursuit of a restful night’s sleep. A new study suggests that while this may be the case exercise isn’t an overnight cure, meaning insomniacs might need a longer-term workout plan.
It’s estimated that nearly half the population suffers from sleepless nights more than once a week. You don’t need to be a scientist to realize the effect not being able to get to sleep, or perhap stay asleep, can have. It makes you tired, irritable and stressed. Whatever the causes, exercise is often suggested as a healthy way to combat this short and long term sleep disorder.
Not an instant cure for insomnia
According to a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine study it’s not an instant solution though. “If you have insomnia you won’t exercise yourself into sleep right away,” said lead study author Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep program at the university. She noted, “It’s a long-term relationship. You have to keep at it and not get discouraged.”
Exercise and sleep
The research involved analysis of data from a 2010 Northwestern clinical trial, and revealed how aerobic activity improved sleep, over a 16 week period in a group of middle aged and older women. The findings are believed to apply to men too, with no noted gender differences in behavioral treatments of insomnia in men.
Brain activity takes time to lower
Insomniacs have higher brain activity than their easy-sleeping counterparts and while exercise can bring down these levels so that they facilitate sleep, it is not a quick fix. There needs to be a certain amount of commitment and patience to any exercise plans and the fact that it takes time is actually beneficial. Medications that work immediately in helping you drop off may mask underlying health issues, whilst exercise gets the body and mind in a healthier place and doesn’t disguise whatever else is going on physically.
Lack of sleep can also affect how you perceive exercise too, according to the study. If you are tired then you are going to get tired far quicker when you exercise. This can lead to you working out less after a bad night’s sleep but feeling like you’ve really put in a lot of effort. This makes it a Catch-22 situation. The less you sleep the less you are inclined to exercise and this in turn impacts your sleep patterns too.
When you are feeling exhausted this is often a sign from your body that you need to slow down, address a health concern of simply give yourself some time out to recharge your batteries. However, if you are suffering from insomnia it is worth looking at an exercise plan that can give you a good workout for Zzzs and to inspire a better exercise routine too.