Can’t Sleep? Try Exercise

Well, that’s a curse. In the nearly two years I’ve been writing these blog posts, I’ve never had a problem with WordPress. So much for winning streaks. I wrote my post about sleep and exercise, hit the preview button, and off it went — into the darkness of cyberspace. Oh mama. Talk about a bad dream come true.

Anyway, maybe I’ll earn twice the money today if I try again. Here goes.

I jumped out of bed this morning at 3 a.m. That’s typical for me these days — even on the weekends. I start my days by jolting my brain and other bodily functions alive through a massive dose of caffeine; scan my e-mail, blogs, news Web sites, Twitter and so on; and then head outside in the dark for either a five-mile run or for a trip to the wellness center and a stint on the elliptical trainer.

I sleep soundly — during the day, at night and in between when the TV provides such comforting background noise. I just don’t sleep very long at night. Never have.

Yet I’m fortunate. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep. And for that I credit exercise. Another of my academic musings and theories based on a research sample of one? Nah. I bring forth an article by Anahad O’Connor in the NYT, “The Claim: Exercise During the Day, and You Will Sleep Better at Night.” Here’s from the article:

The study found that sleep onset latency — the time it takes to fall asleep once in bed — ranged from as little as roughly 10 minutes for some children to more than 40 minutes for others. But physical activity during the day and sleep onset at night were closely linked: every hour of sedentary activity during the day resulted in an additional three minutes in the time it took to fall asleep at night. And the children who fell asleep faster ultimately slept longer, getting an extra hour of sleep for every 10-minute reduction in the time it took them to drift off.

Studies on adults have reached generally similar results, showing that an increase in physical activity improves sleep onset and increases sleep duration, particularly in people who have trouble sleeping.

THE BOTTOM LINE Studies suggest that being more physically active can lead to better sleep.

And if you total my afternoon nap (most days), dozing in front of the TV (most nights), with the few hours I get in bed each night, I manage six hours or so of shuteye a day. And again I’m fortunate — since I have had bouts of insomnia linked to wild swings in my metabolism caused by an underactive thyroid. (Note to everyone: Ask your doctor to check your thyroid as part of all yearly or other routine exams. It’s a simple test, but many docs overlook it.)

Insomnia is a serious problem — with an estimated 64 million Americans suffering from it each year. And I expect millions more have restless nights these days, worrying about jobs, the economy, the rat hole that is Afghanistan, whether reality TV wannabes can actually crash a White House event and exchange high-fives with the Prez and so on.

If you are having trouble sleeping, there are plenty of resources and advice available.

But don’t forget exercise. It works.

And if for some reason, it doesn’t, hey, there’s always Dancing with the Stars and American Idol.

Wow. I’m drained from writing this twice.

Thankfully, almost time for my nap.



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