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.

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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.

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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.