What is the exercise and insomnia connection? Well, to begin with, many insomniacs avoid exercise altogether because they feel so tired. This is one case where you should not listen to your body.
A brisk 30-minute walk every day, or an equivalent, can make a big difference. A daily mild exercise program has shown great benefits for chronic insomniacs.
Is there a certain kind of exercise that is especially helpful for getting rid of chronic sleeplessness?
Yes there is. The keys to the right exercise and insomnia program are
Moderation is key in your exercise and insomnia program because an intense workout during a period of chronic sleeplessness is not recommended. For one thing, you are probably not feeling your best. You might be tired, fatigued, or plain worn out.
Or, if anxiety plays a big role in your insomnia, you might also be feeling tense and wired up. In either case, a heavy, intense workout will not help most chronic insomniacs. You need to be kind to your body when there is an imbalance of ANY kind, not just insomnia. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress… it’s all interconnected, a web of physical and emotional factors.
Consistency is also important. The body thrives on routine and consistency. So anything you do on a regular basis that is healthy and self-nurturing will be beneficial in improving sleep. This covers not only the exercise and insomnia relationship, but also relaxation, eating good food, and spending time with people whose company you enjoy.
Healthy routines can also be emotionally reassuring. They keep you in touch with the repeating cycles of life, especially the daily sun cycles. Insomniacs are off-cycle both physically and emotionally, so anything you can do to bring some consistency into other aspects of your life (other than sleeping) may help your insomnia as a side effect.
Of course, routines also have their downside. They can keep you in a rut, repeating the same negative ideas and beliefs over and over again.
This is why we want to give up certain negative routines and habits while we develop and encourage positive ones.
Daily exercise and the consistent bedtime and wake-up time (the sleep schedule) are two routines you must encourage if you want a long-term cure to chronic insomnia.
What about timing in the exercise and insomnia program? When is the best time of day to have this moderate exercise?
Some studies have shown that raising your body temperature four-to-five hours before bedtime is beneficial for insomnia.
This is because it encourages a bigger drop in body temperature right around the time you go to bed, which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep longer. You can read more about sleep and body temperature here.
Moderate exercise in the late afternoon or early evening is also good because it gives you a break from your day’s activities and helps combat all the stress and tension you’ve built up since morning. This is especially true if you have a sedentary job.
Picture this: you come home from work, and rather than start rushing around trying to get household chores done or plopping into a chair to watch TV, you take a 20-30 minute brisk walk.
You likely won’t be able to do this every day. Dinner needs to be cooked, kids taken care of. Perhaps you don’t get home until after dark.
You may feel very rushed at this time of the day, between 4:00 and 8:00 PM. If this is the case, then you should certainly exercise in the early morning or whenever you can. The main thing is to get some moderate exercise in every day. Time of day is not as important as doing it and keeping it up consistently.
If you have a busy schedule, try breaking up your exercise into two smaller segments: for example, a 20-minute moderate workout in the morning and a 15-20-minute walk in the evening.
If you have been avoiding exercise because you feel so bad from not sleeping, start slowly. Walking outdoors is an excellent way to start because it is so basic and natural… and gets you outdoors, which has a healing effect.
Walking indoors is good too, as is dancing, and using machines at a moderate pace, such as treadmills and exercise bikes.
Avoid High Intensity Workouts
Unless you are a seasoned athlete, you should avoid the heavy and/or high-intensity workouts with weight machines or on your own until you have gotten your sleep patterns straightened out. The fatigue from not sleeping will make you feel weak and exhausted if you overdo the weight training or aerobic training. The exercise and insomnia connection will turn negative in that case!
If you work out regularly already but are presently suffering from insomnia, try reducing the intensity of your usual routine and change the timing of it. If you have been at the gym in the early morning hours, try moving it to a later time. If you work out at night, try switching to the morning or afternoon. If you exercise for an hour, try 30 minutes instead.
Avoid Adrenalized Competition
Avoid high-intensity competitive sports until your sleep pattern improves
You might enjoy them, but the competition is too mentally stimulating at this time.
Remember, chronic insomnia is a sign that your nervous system has been put on a state of alert. Any unnecessary mental stimulation should be put on hold until you have changed your approach to sleep.
No personality changes are necessary to cure insomnia. Any personality can sleep well. Some new habits must be formed, but they are simple, healthy, common-sense habits that will get easier and easier with time. The exercise and insomnia cure program can move you along nicely. You will soon prove this to yourself!
Return to learn more about the behavioral causes of insomnia and the diet-exercise-stress-relief connection.