How Exercise can Help you Sleep Better

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard in order to gain something from it. You don’t even have to work up a sweat to get the benefit of a better nights sleep. And that’s what this article is all about. I’ll show you some easy exercises that can not only improve your sleep but also reduce both snoring and the severity of sleep apnea. And you don’t need any special equipment. How cool is that?

Sleeping in Space is Better

Astronauts report they sleep better in space. And some studies done on sleep in Earth orbit show an improvement of both obstructive breathing and snoring.

So while being in zero gravity, (or micro-gravity in Earth orbit), has its benefits, it comes with a price. You see, weightlessness does some things to your body that aren’t so nice. These effects include loss of muscle and bone mass; as well as a decrease in strength and endurance. Exposure to weightlessness also increases your risk of Kidney stones.

However, these effects are reversible once you return to Earth. This is because gravity provides the resistance our bodies need to maintain health.

exercise
Astronaut Sleeping on board the International Space Station

Thus, when we’re weightless, we can sleep better, but our bodies deteriorate more quickly. Yet while on Earth, our sleep is worse, but our bodies deteriorate more slowly.

Therefore, zero gravity is ideal for sleep. Yet, while we’re awake and actually doing things, we need gravity; something we can push against, or our bodies weaken. Gravity is good in that it gives our bodies the resistance it needs for health. But at the same time, it causes lower quality sleep; with an increase in the severity of OSA. Too bad we all couldn’t have a zero-G chamber to sleep in.

Anyway, that’s why astronauts need exercise to provide the resistance their bodies need while in space. But even us Earthlings can benefit from a proper workout.

Better Sleep for us Earthlings

We know that we need some resistance just to maintain a semblance of health. But again it’s all about balance, neither too little or too much. Remember, we’re not talking about muscle building exercise here, we just want to improve our sleep. And in that case, not only the type of exercise but the timing of the exercise is important. Not only that, but you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment. In fact, you can get by without any equipment!

There’s actually a bit of a debate as to the best time of the day to exercise. Some reports say it’s best right after you get up. Although other studies show that people who exercise before going to bed benefit as much as those who worked out right after they woke up. So maybe it’s really based on what works best for you.

Let’s start with a walk. Even a stroll as short as 20 minutes can be beneficial. And if the sun’s out, you can get your daily dose of vitamin D as well. And by the way, a deficiency of vitamin D  leads to osteoporosis, increases your risk of heart disease, and makes you more susceptible to cancer; so it’s kinda good to have enough of that vitamin available.

But walking can also reduce the severity of OSA. Here’s how.

Fluid accumulates in your legs during the day. Then at night, when you lay down, that fluid shifts to your upper body/neck. This makes sleep apnea worse. Lack of exercise encourages the fluid build up in your legs. Therefore, regular brisk walks can reduce the severity of OSA. And the longer and more frequent the walk, the greater reduction in OSA.

However, walks outside, sun or no sun, aren’t always possible. Sometimes the weather just doesn’t co-operate.

Other Types of Exercise

Any physical activity that increases your heart rate is good. But you don’t want to increase your heart rate too much. So if you’re feeling a little more oomph, there’s a target zone you should shoot for. Click here for an interactive target heart rate zone calculator. Some good cardio exercises include: Walking, riding a bike, running, swimming and jumping rope. But if you have an injury, consult your healthcare professional before doing any type of exercise.

Sleep apnea some of your problem? Did you know there are exercises you can do that reduce snoring as well as the severity of obstructive sleep apnea? Let’s look at a couple of these.

Speech Therapy Training strengthens your upper airway. studies show these types of exercises significantly reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea.

exercise
Aboriginal man playing a Didgeridoo

You can either get yourself a digeridoo which can effectively strengthen your upper airway. Or you can try the following upper airway strengthening exercises. But be patient, it could take a few months of being consistent before you began to see any results. So hang in there. But, yes, these exercises have been proven to reduce both snoring and the severity of sleep apnea.

Ain’t Gonna Happen

I know how it is, even if you have the energy, and the time, other things can still get in the way. And good intentions alone usually don’t get very far. You need to not only plan to exercise but actually write down specifics. Put it on your calendar. Set realistic goals, and write them down. It’s been proven that people who write down their goals are 80% or more successful than those who don’t.

But what if you really do want to exercise, but just don’t have the energy?

I’m too Exhausted to Exercise

“If I could get more sleep, I’d have more energy, and then, maybe I could exercise.” And really, when you’re truly exhausted, just the thought of any kind of exercise can be overwhelming. Especially if exhaustion has now led to depression.

When people think of exercise or ‘working out’, thoughts of hard physical effort usually come to mind. But as you’ve seen, exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous in order to be beneficial. Remember, we’re not talking about working out to get physically fit, the goal is to get a better nights sleep.

So if nothing else, a good walk on a sunny day can be just what the Doctor ordered. And if you have sleep apnea, you can work on those upper airway muscles at the same time. Weather permitting, of course. But, don’t feel bad, or be hard on yourself if some days you really just can’t do anything, even if the weather’s co-operating.

Conclusion

We’ve seen how exercise can help you not only sleep better but can also reduce snoring and the severity of sleep apnea. We’ve looked at some specific exercises needed for this purpose; as well as how setting goals and writing them down will increase your chance of success.

If you have any exercises you do, or some success story you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Till next time…Blessings.

How do you Manage Chronic Pain?

Pain is our bodies warning system, alerting us to a problem. But pain can outlive its purpose and become chronic pain. When that happens, it causes even more harm. Let’s see what can be done about that.

Good Pain bad Pain

Short-term, or acute pain, is good pain.  This pain not only draws our Chronic Painattention to a problem, it also protects a damaged area from further harm (more on this later). There’s also long-term or chronic pain. This type of pain has outlived its purpose and is no longer useful. In fact, it now begins to cause its own injuries. But why does pain sometimes persist long after it’s needed?

Let’s explore these things, shall we?

Acute Pain is Your Friend

Imagine life without pain. What would it be like? If you’re suffering from chronic pain, living life pain-free probably sounds pretty good about now. Imagine how it would be to not feel pain…ever. But pain is our bodies warning system, alerting us to a potential problem.

But think about it.

You’re walking along barefoot somewhere, step on something, and slice your foot open. But, you don’t have any pain, so you pay no attention. Then there’s that sunburn, which makes your skin hypersensitive to light and touch. This keeps you from touching that area or exposing it to further light so that it can heal faster.

Or if you dislocate your hip, the pain will (hopefully) keep you from putting weight on it; thus causing more damage. And what about that chest pain that sent you to the hospital. That pain possibly saved your life. Think of the damage caused by not feeling any pain. So then, pain serves an initial purpose.

However, the very pain that saved your life can become your enemy.

Chronic Pain is Your Enemy

So that injury you had a while back is healed, but you’re still in pain. Or maybe some pain just started.  There seems to be no reason for it, but it won’t go away. What causes this?

First of all, chronic pain complaints increase with age.  And there are many causes. For example, just the changes that accompany normal aging can result in joint pain. Yet, on the other hand, older people tend to cope with pain better than younger people. This is due in part to peoples life experiences, and also health expectations in general.

But what damage does chronic pain cause? To begin with, it takes more effort to do daily tasks. Over time, this saps your strength. And that can make social interaction more difficult; as a result, you began to isolate more and more. Now it’s quite natural to become anxious about this. Eventually, depression can set in. However, anxiety and depression increase the sensation of pain; so it takes on a bit of a snowball effect.

But that’s not your only problem

Studies show that chronic pain actually changes your brain chemistry. This leads to memory and concentration problems. But perhaps the damage caused by stress is the most serious. And pain causes stress. And when stress becomes chronic, it causes chronic inflammation. Now you’re vulnerable to a whole bunch of other diseases.

And of course, pain also affects your sleep.

Chronic Pain and Sleep

If you have chronic pain, you’ll also suffer from fatigue and sleepiness. Your memory and quality of life will be reduced as well. The reason it has this effect is at least two-fold. First, chronic pain can cause you to wake up many times at night. But it also changes the amount of time spent in each sleep stage.

This is important because we need to spend a certain amount of time in each sleep stage. For instance, specific hormones are released in stage 3 sleep that help with the growth and restoration of your body. And Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is important for memory consolidation. Additionally, some sleep stages affect your perception of pain.

And while pain causes sleep fragmentation, poor sleep can cause an increase in perceived pain. This starts a vicious cycle. Because the anxiety and depression from pain and lack of sleep increase the feeling of chronic pain.

When Mice Don’t Sleep

When lab animals were deprived of sleep, their body temperature dropped, internal organs shut down, and they died fairly quickly. How does this happen?  One study indicated these mice used up their energy almost twice as fast as other mice that were left to sleep. And because they couldn’t keep up with the energy loss, they died within 32 days!

With humans, hallucinations and paranoia set in long before more serious physical symptoms do. And although no human has been reported to die from sleep deprivation, it still has done some serious harm. Thus the once beneficial pain that alerted you to trouble, has now turned against you and is actually causing damage itself.

So if poor quality sleep leads to increased pain, it follows that getting a good nights rest can reduce pain. But how are you supposed to get some good quality sleep when you can’t even get comfortable?

Let’s look at some treatment options that can help us achieve this.

Treatment Options 

Conventional

A group of medications known as Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs are commonly used to treat pain. Some of these are Motrin and Aleve. However, studies now show there are dangers in taking these medications. These risks include:

1-Increased risk of Heart failure.

2-Ulcers and internal bleeding.

3-Kidney failure

4-Serious allergic reactions

5-Dangers to children and teenagers.

Then there’re the narcotics, such as Tylenol with codeine, and Vicodin. However, these not only slow down your breathing but cause you to breathe more shallow as well. And if you already struggle with breathing in your sleep, these medications will only make things worse. Additionally, narcotics also reduce Stage 3 sleep, which is essential for the growth and restoration of your body.

So, whenever possible, treat the cause of the pain, don’t just numb it.

Alternative 

Exercise and other stressors release a chemical in our brains called Endorphins. The word Endorphin comes from 2 Greek words: Endo (from within), and Morpheús (The god of dreams), where we get the word MorphineThis is why physical exercise can make you feel good. Think runners high here.

But physical activity does more than just release endorphins. Additionally, physical activity (exercise) can prevent, or at least delay, pain;  because pain can increase with immobility. So although being too physical can increase pain, lack of physical exercise has the same effect. Therefore balance is the key.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is another interesting thing you might want to check out.

So again, doing things to reduce pain can help you sleep better. And when you sleep better, pain is further reduced. In all this, the real challenge is to allow the good acute pain in, but keep the bad chronic pain out.

Conclusion

Acute pain protects us from further injury. But chronic pain just causes more damage. We need to be able to reduce chronic pain as best we can, while not affecting the benefits of acute pain. If you’ve found something that has helped your chronic pain, please leave a comment. You can help others suffering from this as well.

Till next time…Blessings.