Jun 7, 2021
Achieve Better Sleep with Effective Exercise

Sleep. Those who get enough of it spend a third of their day doing it. Those who don’t are constantly searching for a better way to sleep.

According to the World Sleep Society, a non-profit organization of sleep professionals dedicated to advancing ‘sleep health worldwide,’ sleep problems actually “constitute a global epidemic that threatens health and quality of life for up to 45 percent of the world’s population.”

One to combat sleep issues is by exercising. In a recent article from CNN Wellness, the site spoke with Dana Santas, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach, for her advice.

Below is an excerpt from that article.

CNN: Is there any connection between exercise and sleep? If so, what?

Santas: Thankfully, yes, there is a positive connection between exercise and sleep, which is one thing athletes have going for them as they exercise regularly. It’s not just in the weight room or when they’re practicing or playing in a game. Because their bodies are craving the recovery, for the most part, it’s a matter of ensuring that they have optimal circumstances to enable themselves to get the sleep that they need.

Because athletes are exercising all the time, this can actually work against them when they do not manage to get enough sleep. Without adequate sleep to recover from exercise, it can lead to overtraining syndrome, which results in muscular breakdown due to decreases in testosterone, increased cortisol levels, and increased inflammatory response. This is why I mentioned injury as a chief concern due to lack of sleep quality.

CNN: How important is the rest and recovery part of the workout?

Santas: For professional athletes, it’s generally not an issue of not getting enough exercise to help facilitate sleep; it’s about ensuring that they incorporate cool downs postgame or post-late-night workout to ensure they’re initiating a parasympathetic response, which is the rest and recovery aspect of the nervous system. It’s as simple as spending just a few minutes stretching and taking deep breaths post-workout, but it’s profoundly effective.

I often encourage athletes to do those few minutes of stretching and breathing in their hotel rooms right before bed to downregulate after a stimulating game or travel, so they can get into “rest and restore” mode and release any tension in their bodies to prevent aches and pains from letting them sleep or waking them in the night.

CNN: For people who aren’t professional athletes, what kind of exercise do you recommend?

Santas: For most people, it’s usually more about ensuring they are getting enough moderate-intensity exercise daily to help their bodies naturally crave rest at the end of the day. Moderate intensity is anything that gets your heart pumping and increases your respiration rate. Too often people confuse moderate intensity with high intensity and think they need to be sweating profusely and out of breath. That’s just not the case. Although high-intensity exercise can also be efficient and effective, it can understandably be overwhelming for someone new to exercise and difficult to maintain long term.

» ALSO SEE: ASICS Aims to Support Mental Health Through Sports

A brisk walk, bike ride, or a few rounds of bodyweight exercises can do the trick, as long as you’re doing it for at least 20 to 25 minutes a day. Adding in some strength training is also important — not just for better sleep but for overall health because the more muscle mass you have, the more metabolic demand on your body — not just when you’re exercising. This means you are burning more calories all day long, essentially revving your engine more consistently all day so that your body is better prepared to rest at night.

To read the full article from CNN Wellness on achieving better sleep, click here

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