The key to a good night’s sleep could be as easy as getting out the door for regular daily exercise. The results of a National Sleep Foundation poll have revealed that exercisers overall say they sleep better and have fewer sleep-related complications such as sleep apnea.
The 2013 Sleep in America® annual poll was conducted for the National Sleep Foundation by WB&A Market Research. One thousand adults between the ages of 23 and 60 were surveyed and asked to report their level of physical activity, including the frequency and intensity of the exercises performed. The poll was conducted as part of the 16th annual National Sleep Awareness Campaign, held March 3 – 10, 2013.
Overall, self-described exercisers reported better sleep than those who viewed themselves as non-exercisers. Despite getting the same number of hours of sleep each night, just under seven hours on average, those who exercised say their quality of sleep was better.
Those who exercised “vigorously” reported the best sleep quality, often saying they had a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night during the week.
Non-exercisers tend toward being more excessively sleepy during daytime hours than regular exercisers. This can interfere with safety and quality of life. Those who do not regularly exercise also have a greater incidence of sleep apnea, a serious medical condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep. More than four in ten non-exercisers exhibit a moderate risk of sleep apnea compared to one in four of those who exercise, even just a little.
"If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night's sleep," says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, poll task force chair. "Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better. And good sleep is fundamental for good health, productivity, and happiness."
"Exercise is beneficial to sleep. It's time to revise global recommendations for improving sleep and put exercise—any time—at the top of our list for healthy sleep habits," says Dr. Barbara Phillips, poll task force member.
Healthy Sleep Advice
To improve your sleep, try the following tips:
• Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
• Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
• Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
• Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
• Use bright light to help manage your "body clock." Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
• Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
• Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a "worry book" so you can address those issues the next day.
• If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
• If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, or "stop breathing" episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.
Reference: The National Sleep Foundation