When you suffer from insomnia, you tend to rise in the morning feeling tired and sluggish. It is easy to use fatigue as an excuse to skip the exercise, but research shows that it is beneficial not just for cardiovascular health and brain function, but also for improved sleep. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity found that a representative sample of more than 2,600 Americans slept considerably better and felt more alert during the daytime after exercising at least 150 minutes per week. In fact, they experienced 65% improvement in sleep quality, and felt less sleepy during the day! So, how do you get started?
Set Exercise Goals
To increase your chance of success, the American Council on Exercise suggests setting goals that are SMART:
- Specific – Choose exercise sessions that are easy to understand and plan out.
- Measurable –Stay away from vague proclamations and aim for goals that you can check off.
- Attainable – Set the bar at a place that challenges you a bit, but is not so insanely hard that you are likely to quit.
- Relevant – What motivates you? Do you enjoy walking or swimming?
- Time-bound –Set a time frame to complete goals in.
Record Your Progress
People have a habit of overestimating the amount of exercise they do each week, so it is a good idea to keep track of your movements via an app, a device that tracks your activity or with good old-fashioned paper and pencil.
Fine Tune Your Schedule
Once you have followed your exercise goals, take note of how you feel. Are you sleeping better? Do you feel more awake during the day? Does your exercise duration and frequency mesh well with your daily schedule? Does morning or evening exercise work better for you? Exercising close to bedtime works for many people and the old perception that it causes insomnia is not backed up by science. Take note of what works best for you and work to create your best schedule. Ultimately, exercise is a positive change that can lead to more restful sleep.