A number of studies have shown that people who take regular exercise, and in particular women who exercise regularly, not only sleep longer at night but also enjoy a better quality of sleep. So, rather than turning to the sleeping pills, perhaps a quick visit to the gym or a run may be the answer to solving your sleep problems.
A surprisingly large number of people have difficulty sleeping because of excessive stress and, as if this were not enough, problems sleeping often give rise to raised levels of cortisol which, in turn, makes you feel even more stressed. It’s something of a vicious circle. A lack of sleep can also make you more irritable and so less able to cope with stressful situations, adding even further to your difficulties.
Exercise can help in two ways.
First, although exercise initially raises the level of stress hormones in the body, these fall within a few hours not simply back to their original level but to a level below that seen before exercising. As a result, regular exercise a few hours before bedtime can quickly break the sleep-stress cycle.
Second, many people with sleeping problems find that they simply can’t clear their minds when they climb into bed ready for sleep. The stresses of the day tend to run round and round in their heads repeatedly and they simply can’t relax. Exercise gives you the opportunity to get out of the ‘rat race’ of the day for a short time and gives you the time to quietly think through your problems, put them into perspective and, more often than not, to actually come up with a solution. Though this is not a direct result of exercise itself, it is a valuable by-product.
One important aspect of exercise when using it in part as a tool to cure insomnia is timing. Because exercise initially increases chemical levels in the brain it makes you feel more awake and gives you more energy. For this reason it’s not a good idea to exercise shortly before going to bed. However, if you exercise a few hours before bedtime, you’ll find that it works a treat. Exactly how far in advance of retiring you should exercise will vary from one individual to the next and so you should start by trying to exercise about four hours before bedtime and then gradually increase the gap between exercising and bedtime until you find the optimum time for your own sleep routine.
Of course exercise has a number of other benefits including making you feel great, improving your general health, helping you to lose weight and giving you more energy during the day. So, before you turn to the sleeping pills again, try a little daily exercise and enjoy a basketful of benefits.