On World Sleep Day, here is how you can exercise your way to a good night’s sleep

By: Dr. Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist

Every year, since 2007, March 19th is observed as the World Sleep Day to increase awareness around the importance of healthy sleep. This year the theme for World Sleep Day is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.’ In order to lead a healthy life, a good night’s sleep is extremely crucial. However, an alarming number of people currently struggle to snooze at night.

According to the recent studies, nearly one third of the adults fall short of the recommended 8 hours of sleep per day which further has long lasting consequences on their health and wellbeing. Even though all of us are aware about the fact that both exercise and good sleep are pivotal in helping the body to rejuvenate and remain fit but still the burden of chronic illnesses continues to increase throughout the world and is also making its way into the younger population and children. Lack of sleep has been found as a leading cause behind the reduction in cognitive performance, impair body metabolism and immune response.

The growing menace of screen addiction, 24x7 always-on lifestyle and increasing work hours are also playing havoc with our biological clocks wherein many people are increasingly being found to be sleepy at work and are waking up with issues like back pains, stressed out, irritable, and in poor physical shape. This has highlighted on the need to make significant lifestyle changes in one’s daily routine and the need to develop a pre-sleep routine.

While reducing the caffeine intake and drinking chamomile tea are some of the easiest measures that have been found to be beneficial in building a healthy sleep cycle, however, working out or exercising is one of the quickest ways to improve the sleep quality.

It has been observed that exercising helps in shifting the gears faster into the deeper stages of sleep and also reduces the chances of incomplete sleep cycles, but it is essential to know what time of the day must one exercise.  Contrary to the popular belief that exercising at night can tire one’s body and will help them sleep like a baby; actually has more negatives than positive effects. Although exercising late makes one stay fitter, it actually disrupts the stable heart rate that is is one of the core factors impacting ones restorative sleep.

In patients who have insomnia, exercising late in the evening can only be delterious as exercise pushes up their hormones and delays the onset of sleep. Hence, among such patients it is advisable to have moderate exercise schedule in the morning so that end of the day they are automatically pushed into good quality sleep.

Similarly, there are a group of diseases called sleep disordered breathing which causes a person to snore at night and also choke at night and invariably this has significant effect on the body’s metabolism thereby making the person gain more weight. This weight gain further causes a vicious cycle of worsening and choking episodes at night among these patients. A majority of the people suffering from this condition are obese or overweight and therefore, exercising plays one of the key roles in their physician’s recommendation to reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and improve their quality of life. It cannot be stressed enough without exercise these patients fail to regain a good quality of life and the continued stress of lack of oxygen in them causes worsening blood pressure control, poor diabetic control and life threatening heart ailments.

Exercise also helps to stabilize the mood and reduce anxiety and for people suffering from mental illnesses it helps in a cognitive process of easily transitioning into normal sleep. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is seen to improve sleep quality. Sleep is quintessential and so is exercise and they both go hand in hand to keep one’s mind and body healthy.

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