This week March 6th through the 13th marks Sleep Awareness Week © March 6th through March 13th, to raise awareness for the health benefits of sleep and its importance to safety and productivity. The National Sleep Foundation would like everyone to pledge: “I promise to use these seven days for better sleep!”
Are you Sleep Aware?
Sleep is essential to feeling refreshed and rested and is part of a healthy lifestyle, just like exercise and eating well. Sleep deprivation can be bad for your health and lead to complications like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to make the correlation between getting enough sleep and exercise in order to make the right lifestyle change. As part of sleep awareness week, we take a closer look at sleep and exercise.
How much sleep do we need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 7-8 hours per night of restful sleep usually does the trick to make people feel well rested in the morning. (2) The problem with this number is that even though you might be in bed for that amount of time, you might not be getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
Getting inadequate sleep can lead to:
- Increase in body mass index—a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep can trigger the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and an increase of insulin production, which promotes fat storage and is associated with weight gain.Lack of sleep can also reduce levels of leptin which is the hormone that allows you to feel satiated and raise levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. The altering of levels result in cravings for sweet foods and overeating and can increase your daily caloric intake by 300 calories (1)
- Impaired glucose tolerance and an increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
- Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
- Decreased ability to pay attention, read signals or remember new information
Although research has not pinpointed an exact amount of sleep needed for everybody, here are a few questions provided by the National Sleep foundation you can ask yourself to see how much you need. (2)
- Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
- Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
- Are you experiencing sleep problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you feel sleepy when driving?
What our risks are for not enough sleep?
It’s important to determine what we can do to improve our numbers. Let’s look at how exercise can help with getting the right amount of sleep.
Chronic insomnia, defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, awakening too early in the morning, or nonrestorative sleep, is the most common sleep disorder among adults.(3) Of the handful of studies that have been performed about the relationship between sleep and exercise, they suggest that exercise significantly improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia.
- Reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people with chronic insomnia compared to a night in which they did not
- Similar results have been found for studies that examined the effects of long-term exercise on sleep in adults with insomnia. In these studies, after 4 to 24 weeks of exercise, adults with insomnia fell asleep more quickly, slept slightly longer, and had better sleep quality than before they began exercising
- One way may be by the body-heating effects of exercise, especially when performed in the afternoon or later. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep
- Exercise may also reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms (3)
While there is still more research to be done about how much and what type of exercise should be done to help with sleep, the studies clearly show that exercise does help. It might not be an immediate fix but can gradually help, so try to incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your day on a regular basis to see if it helps with your sleep. In addition, stick to a sleep schedule, practice a relaxing bedtime ritual and turn off all electronics before bed. Have questions about how to incorporate exercise into your day? Contact us!
- “Sleep, Obesity & Exercise”. Accessed 29, December 2015. American Council on Exercise. http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-programs-article/3036/ACEFit-workout-advice-and-exercise-tips/
- “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need”. Accessed 29, December 2015. Sleepfoundation.org. https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
- “How Does Exercise Help Those With Chronic Insomnia?”. Accessed 29, December 2015. https://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia
- Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net