Sleep is a blessing. Most people can take it for granted but to those who experience insomnia, sleep comes truly is just that, a blessing. After a long day there’s nothing like laying down your weary head and re-energizing your body for a new day. Insomniacs aren’t so lucky. A good night’s sleep is unobtainable for some. Dictionary.com defines insomnia as the inability to obtain sufficient sleep; difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia affects 30% to 50% of the general population. Over 10% of those people have chronic insomnia. Insomnia does not discriminate. It affects all age groups, especially adult women.
Insomnia is not a disease. It is a symptom. Insomnia is rarely treated because few people seek medical attention for it. There are three different types of Insomnia. The first type is transient insomnia. This type lasts less than one week. The second type of insomnia is called short-term insomnia. Short-term insomnia lasts from one to three weeks and then is resolved. Both transient and short-term insomnia are usually caused by a lifestyle change. Stress from a new job, uncomfortable surroundings, or even a change in the normal events of life can cause this type of insomnia. The third type of insomnia is chronic insomnia. This type lasts three weeks and longer.
Chronic Insomnia is the biggie. It’s this type of insomnia that make most people stop and say ” hey, I have a problem”.Â Chronis insomnia usually is caused by psychological or physiological (medical) conditions. Psychologically, conditions such as high stress, depression, anxiety and other “mental” disorders can cause chronic insomnia. Medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, acid reflux and congestive heart failure are just a few. Other triggers of insomnia can be stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. There are many triggers that occur in our daily life, it can be hard to pinpoint the one that will cause you not to sleep at night.
So what do we do about this? We become informed. Part of becoming informed is researching different ways of combating insomnia. There is always the medical route. That is great for some of us, but there are people who decide to take an alternate approach. One of these alternatives for treating insomnia cannot be found in a doctor’s office or on a shelf. It is available to everyone and (the best part) it is free! The answer to an insomniacs prayers can be found through simple exercise.
When we think of exercise we think of energy, motivation, and speed. We may not immediately associate these things with sleep, but as ironic as it sounds it just may be the answer. Our bodies are complex machines. An important factor to sleep is the regulation of our body temperature and the affect certain stressors have on our body. Through aerobic exercise we are able to achieve both a regulated body temperature and enough stress that our body will want to sleep. We just have to train ourselves to do just that.
According to sleeplikethedead.com, researchers at Stanford University did a study on how exercise affects sleep patterns. People aged 55 – 75 were asked to begin to exercise 20 – 30 minutes every other day in the afternoon. The outcome was that these people not only fell asleep faster, they slept for an extra hour a day.
What caused these results? The answer is pretty easy to understand.
When we exercise our bodies, our stress and our temperature rises. Hours later, our body temperature falls which allows our bodies to fall asleep faster and stay asleep much longer. Also, because our bodies have been stressed from the exercise, our brain releases chemicals that tell us we are tired and makes our body want to sleep. It’s like a switch that we can use to turn off our insomnia. Another benefit of exercise is sunlight. Light you say? Yes. If we exercise outdoors our body soaks up the sunlight which also helps to regulate our body temperatures.
Too good to be true? No. As long as you follow some easy guidelines. First exercise at least four hours before going to bed. This gives our body the time to adjust from the energizing temperature spike from our activity. Next make sure you exercise at least 20 – 30 minutes per day. Varying your exercise ritual will also help to keep you motivated. Finally, exercise your mind. Try to relax after activity. Let your muscles relax and think good thoughts. Always work up to a good exercise program. Start off gradual and set your own pace.
Exercise can be the answer. The benefits to your mind and your body will have you sleeping like a babe!