“What can help me sleep?” is a common question for millions of Americans these days. It’s estimated that, on any night of the week, over 50 million people have trouble getting the rest they need. However, a recent study offers these rest-deprived people new hope. It confirms that most people get better sleep after exercise. Aerobic activity is especially beneficial for those seeking more slumber.

Physical Activity and Sleep Latency Linked

Sleep latency is a fancy term for how long it takes to doze off. A group of researchers in New York were interested in whether there is a link between sleep latency and how active persons are during the day. To find out, they compared people who engaged in aerobic workouts with those who didn’t.

The results were clear. Those who made time for sufficient exercise fell asleep much quicker than their sedentary counterparts. The difference was often as great as 30 minutes. In addition, those that exercised stayed asleep longer, getting an average of one hour more rest per night than the study participants that did not exercise.

Results Confirmed by Other Studies

Scientists at Northwestern University conducted a similar project in 2010. They studied 23 adults over a period of 16 weeks. None of the group members regularly exercised prior to their participation. For this study, they were divided into two groups. These groups were assigned an aerobic exercise regimen comprised of walking, riding a stationary bike, or using a treadmill. One group exercised for two 20-minute sessions four days out of the week. The other group worked out for 30-40 minutes four days a week. Each participant reached 75% of his or her maximum heart rate during the sessions.

A separate control group was also organized. These people didn’t exercise at all. Instead, they engaged in mentally stimulating activities, such as listening to lectures or attending classes. They met for 45-minute sessions held three to five times each week.

The results were conclusive. The groups that regularly exercised dramatically improved their sleep after exercise in terms of both quality and hours per day spent asleep. None of these benefits were noted in the group that remained physically inactive.

Dr. Kathryn Reid, who led the research team, later released a statement in which she praised aerobic exercise as a safe, healthy alternative to sleep medications, which can be habit-forming and often cause troubling side effects, such as daytime fatigue and dream disturbances. She also noted that group members who worked out had more energy during the day. “Better sleep gave them (the study participants) pep, that magical ingredient that makes you want to get up and get out into the world and do things,” she said.

“How can I get started?”

Fitness experts recommend the following steps for those new to aerobic exercise:

1. Meet with your health care provider for a physical and to discuss your exercise goals. You should also find out what your target heart rate (THR) is. Target heart rate will differ from individual to individual based on certain criteria.

2. Find an activity that you like. Walking is the most common, as it requires no special equipment other than good shoes and can be done virtually anywhere. Other popular choices include basketball, stair climbing, swimming, jogging, or using equipment like treadmills and stair climbers. The important thing is to pursue an exercise that you enjoy, so you’ll be more motivated to actually do it.

3. Start slow. If you haven’t exercised in a while, then begin with two to three weekly sessions, making sure to have a rest day in between. You want to go for a minimum of 30 minutes, but don’t let it bother you if you can’t do this at first. Work out as long as you can without over exerting yourself. Even five minutes or less will have tremendous benefits, and your endurance will grow as the weeks go on, so long as you’re consistent in your sessions.

4. Start each workout with a few minutes of light activity, such as stretching or walking at a slow pace. This will limber your muscles and get you warmed up for more strenuous activity.

5. Measure your heart rate during your exercise. Be sure to check it yourself; the digital devices on treadmills and other pieces of equipment are notoriously inaccurate. Count your heartbeats over a 15 second period, and then multiply this by four to get your per-minute rate. Try to keep moving while doing this. You will need a watch or wall clock with a second hand.

6. For most people, a good goal is to reach approximately 75% of their THR and maintain that for a period of 20-30 minutes. Be certain to stop immediately if you feel yourself getting winded, dizzy, or have chest pains. You want to feel like you are stretching your abilities without over-taxing them.

7. Wrap up your workout with a few minutes of cool down time. Slow your pace gradually to a complete stop. Then take a deep breath, wipe the sweat from your brow, and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Tips For When You Advance

A lot of people maintain an exercise program for a few weeks, only to abandon it once the results become less obvious or when they get bored with their chosen activity. Here are ways to avoid these problems:

• Switch activities. If you’re burned out on basketball, try racquetball or bike riding. If you’ve had enough walking for a while, then change over to stair climbing or aerobic dance. Treadmill users can avoid boredom by reading a book or listening to music while they tread away their extra pounds.
• Join a group of fitness enthusiasts or start one of your own. The members can encourage each other to stick with the program and give you positive reinforcement for your efforts.
• Keep track of your progress, such as how much longer you can walk or how many inches you shed from your waist. Keeping a journal of your results can also be a powerful motivator, as can making a series of before and after pictures.
• Vary your pace and routine. For example, you might try a longer, slower pace for a few days, then switch to shorter, faster-paced sessions. This will help to keep your interest level high and prevent you from reaching a plateau that won’t let you advance to higher levels of fitness.

Sleep Should Be Enjoyed

You work hard, and you deserve quality rest. Rest can be hard to obtain if you’re lying on a mattress that’s too hard or too soft, if your pillow doesn’t keep your neck and head at a comfortable height, or if you’re suffering from allergies due to materials in your blankets, sheets, or sleep surface. That’s why you owe it to yourself to browse an extensive selection of sleeping products that can improve sleep.

You’re sure to find something that will make your sack time more relaxing and refreshing, as well as improved sleep quality and boost energy to take on the day. Choose the products you want, and then place your order using our secure online form. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you might have. At Parklane Mattresses, our goal is to help you get the quality rest you need.