From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published September 16, 2010 11:12 AM

Cure for Insomnia: Get Moving

You've been tossing and turning all night. Rolling over, the clock says 2:00 am. Instead of reaching for the bottle of Nyquil, or something even stronger, researchers from Northwestern University (NWU) have a much healthier alternative to falling asleep — aerobic exercise. Regular cardiovascular exercise can improve the quality of sleep, overall mood and vitality of insomniacs.

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The study, from Northwestern Medicine (of NWU) in Chicago, analyzed the effects of aerobic exercise on middle-aged and older adults, half of which suffer from chronic insomnia. Compared to all other non-pharmacological methods, exercise proved to be incredibly effective at both putting people to sleep and keeping them asleep.

"This is relevant to a huge portion of the population," said Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at NWU. "Insomnia increases with age. Around middle age, sleep begins to change dramatically. It is essential that we identify behavioral ways to improve sleep. Now we have promising results showing aerobic exercise is a simple strategy to help people sleep better and feel more vigorous."

We have all heard the phrase, "get a good night sleep, you have a big day tomorrow," meaning you should sleep well in order to have the energy for the next day. This study from NWU turns this old saying on its head. Now it's, "get a good night sleep, have a big day today," meaning you should spend a lot of energy in order to sleep well.

Sleep and exercise are linked; humans need both if they want to have a healthy lifestyle. The two can create a virtuous cycle. Sleeping better will allow you to spend more energy which will allow you to sleep better, and so on.

Good sleep can also improve mental health. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder often have sleeping problems. Neuro-imaging studies suggest that a good night sleep can help foster mental and emotional resilience. A bad night sleep can bring about negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.

The NWU study included 23 sedentary adult women over 55 who have had sleeping problems. They used women because women have the highest rates of insomnia. The group was split in two — workout group and non-workout group. Exercise was shown to improve the workout groups' sleep quality, alleviated depressive symptoms, and decreased their daytime drowsiness.

It is amazing how exercise is a natural cure-all for so many things, now that many people are living more sedentary lifestyles. It is good for a faster metabolism, keeping body weight down, strengthening the heart and lungs. Now, according to the NWU study, it is good for sleep too. The study is to be published in the October issue of Sleep Medicine.

For more information on the link between exercise and sleep: http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/sleep/basics/how-to-fall-asleep1.htm

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