Research continues to show the importance of exercise for improving sleep and reducing the symptoms of a disorder like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
If you consistently struggle to sleep. you will struggle to function during the day, causing problems both in your work life and home life. The fatigue, irritability and poor concentration associated with poor sleep can impact all areas of your life.
However, resistance training and cardio exercise can help improve your sleep patterns according to a series of studies.
One recent study suggested resistance exercise promotes better sleep than other workouts among inactive adults, particularly those who are poor sleepers.
Another study showed that brisk walking combined with weight training cut the severity of sleep apnea by a significant 25%.
How Exercise Helps You Sleep
One in three Americans are reported to be sleeping less than seven hours every night. While we are sleeping, the body carries out vital restorative processes to prepare us both physically and mentally for the next day.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand the underlying reasons why we are not sleeping the recommended hours, including disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, and implement ways to get more rest.
The Effect of Resistance and Cardio Exercise
Those who exercise frequently often tell you how much better their sleep is at night and the studies back them up. Exercise, including resistance training and cardio exercise, play an important part in helping people fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
One reason is those who are more physically active during the day appear to have an improved sleep efficiency. Not only do they stay asleep longer, but their sleeping is deeper, a factor which is thought to improve memory function.
Reduced Stress, Anxiety
Exercise is not just about making you feel tired at the end of the day. Exercise helps reduce your anxiety and stress levels, two major contributing factors in the struggle to sleep.
Exercise has also been seen to reduce daytime sleepiness and fatigue, as well as improve overall concentration levels due to improved sleep.
The Positive Impact of Exercise on Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea causes breathing difficulties as your body struggles to get sufficient oxygen overnight.
A primary contributing factor is excess body weight -- as this leads to excess tissue in the throat, causing airways to become blocked during sleep.
Your doctor will likely advise exercise and nutritional diet to treat OSA, as this helps reduce your excess weight -- and increases muscle tone in the throat. This helps reduce the pauses in breathing (“apneas”) and allows you to get better sleep.
Indeed, one study by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a 10% reduction in weight can see a 26% reduction in obstructive sleep apnea episodes.
Exercise Improves Overall Health
A fitness program, including resistance training and cardio exercises, has a range of benefits in heart health. This is a potent point considering that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America and elsewhere.
Another bonus is that a fitness program does not need to take a big to hit your wallet. By working with your doctor, you can devise a fitness plan that does not necessarily require costly gym memberships.
You are more likely to stay motivated and keep with the plan if the exercises are based on activities you like to do.
Easy Ways to Exercise
Make exercise fun by doing activities you enjoy, starting slow and building up. Set realistic goals. Nothing will likely de-motivate you more than not attaining early targets which were unrealistic in the first place.
A few ideas for exercises which are free and can be done pretty much anywhere:
- Going for walks in your local area. Start off at a pace you can manage. As you get fitter you can increase the distance of the walks and the pace of your stride.
- If you have a dog, build their walks in to your fitness plan. Your dog will no doubt love the fact they are going out more often and for longer walks.
- Use free online videos for exercise workouts at home, including hand-held weights you can purchase in many stores.
- As you become more confident you can find some trails to walk or hike. Free exercise and the stunning views will further help your motivation. Walking with others is also a good idea.
- Ditch the car, and bike or walk to work where possible, as well as when running local errands.
Gradually you can make fitness less of a routine and more of a lifestyle.
Don’t Forget Nutrition
Exercise works hand in hand with a balanced diet to reap the rewards. A sample of foods to incorporate more in to your diet include:
- Nuts - they contain high amounts of protein and healthy fats
- Fruit and vegetables – for example bananas, which are packed with potassium and can help prevent bloating that may keep you awake at night.
- Yogurt – a nice treat at any time, but also a high protein yogurt is ideal as a healthier snack and is also seen to be good at controlling appetites.
Exercise can play a significant role in helping ensure we get better nights of restorative rest.
Resistance training and cardio exercises, combined with a nutritional diet, can also help reduce the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, further improving our sleep.
If you are having trouble sleeping, consult with your doctor or a SleepQuest Care coordinator at your earliest opportunity.