Chronic insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, waking too early or experiencing nonrestorative sleep. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among adults affecting about 6% to 10% of the US population.
It is well known that exercise helps you sleep; however, it must be done in the right way and at the right time, especially when the goal is for it to be of benefit for insomnia and troublesome sleep patterns. While exercise is assumed to help sleep, there has been little scientific research done into the effect of exercise on chronic insomnia.
The studies that have been done (Passos et al., 2010, Guilleminault et al., 1995; Passos et al., 2011; Reid et al., 2010) show that indeed exercise significantly improves sleep in those who suffer from chronic insomnia. These studies showed that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like walking resulated in a reduced time to fall sleep and increased the length of sleep people with chronic insomnia got per night.
Conversely, rigorous exercise, like running or weight lifting did not improve sleep patterns. These studies found that 4 to 24 weeks of consistent exercise directed in better sleep outcomes for insomniacs who exercised versus their sleep experiences before they began to workout.
How Exercise Works
While science does not yet have definite answers as to how or why exercise promotes sleep, several hypotheses exist. One is the fact that exercise creates body heat by increasing body temperature and the consequent drop in temperature following a workout Promotes sleep.
Another variant is that exercise alleviates insomnia because it decrees arousal, anxiety, and depression, all of which are typically linked to insomnia conditions.
Another reason may be that exercise effects circadian rhythms or one's body clock, allowing people with insomnia to shift its timing depending on when they exercise.
Obviously, more research is needed as to the connection and causal relationships between exercise and insomnia, however we do not need to know the reasons why for it to be helpful. Beside, exercise has many other health benefits and it certainly should be a part of everyone's day.
One of the most important elements of insomnia is the inability to relax, both the mind and body. Yoga does just that and is an activity you can do just before going to sleep. Yoga combines specific postures, breathing techniques and meditation that calms the body and mind. Your body will be more flexible and it does not generally cause the aches and pains that sometimes hinder your sleep.
There are many different types of yoga, some of which can be too stimulating for sleep. Hatha yoga is a perfect type of yoga for relaxation and is one type of yoga that even beginners can quickly master. Hatha yoga emphasizes breathing and relaxed posts that will absence sleep in just about anyone who practices it.
Five specific yoga exercises promote better sleep. These poses can be done just before sleep to put you in the best possible mood to sleep, these include:
- Upside-Down – For about two minutes, lie down on the floor near a wall with your butt about six inches from the wall or headboard. Put your legs straight up along the wall so they are fully extended. Breathe deeply and regularly for about two minutes before going onto the next pose.
- Winding down twist – Sit cross-legged and twist your body as far to the right as possible. Breathe for a minute before switching to the other side. Look over each shoulder as you put one hand behind you and one hand on the opposite knee. Do this for a couple of minutes as you relax.
- Nighttime goddess stretch – Lie on your back and put your feet together, bending at the knee. Allow your knees to fall out to the side as much as possible. Keep your arms at your sides, palm side up. Put a pillow beneeth each knee if you have problems opening up your knees completely.
- Child's Pose – Sit up on your heels and then bend forward so that your forehead touches the bed and your arms are stretched out high above your head. This pose can be done for up to 7 minutes while you breathe deeply and slowly.
- Rock-a-bye Roll – Lie on your back and grass your lower legs near the ankle so your knees are tucked up near your face. Squeeze yourself into a tight “ball” and rock back and forth for about a minute. Then extend your legs and arms, relaxing into a calm and restful sleep.
You can do these exercises at night, as they are the perfect relaxation option to promote better sleep and cure occasional insomnia. All of them induction relaxation and can allow your mind to drift into the mode of sleep.
Tai Chi Or Qi Gong For Sleep
These mind-body exercises stretch the muscles, improve balance, and calm the mind. If you have no other time but bedtime to engage in an exercise, Tai chi allows life energy (qi) to freely flow through the body and induces relaxation and peace of mind. Tai Chi can be learned with a DVD or by taking a class.