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BETTER SLEEP TIPS:
Self-Help for Insomnia & Sleep Deprivation

A Self-Help Workbook by Lucinda Sykes, M.D.

Chapter 7

Physical Activity for Better Sleep

Contents:

Why is physical activity important for sleep?

Physical activity during the day helps people sleep soundly at night. Maybe this is because daily activity stabilizes the “sleep-wake cycle” (see Chapter 11).

Dog owners know they must walk their pet everyday to maintain its health. Human nature requires some of the same care.

Caution: Vigorous exercise in the hours before bed can cause sleeplessness. Some types of yoga & qigong (see below) are also stimulating and should not be practiced late in the day.

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I don’t like to exercise. What can I do?

If you are entirely sedentary, increased physical activity will likely help you sleep.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to improve your sleep. Even a regular daily walk could bring better sleep.

Choose any physical activity that suits your personality. Some people like group activities. Others are more solitary.

Choose activities that you enjoy. If you dislike the activity, you’ll soon give it up. If it’s usually fun, then you’ll be able to get yourself going even on days when you’d rather not.

One sedentary lady took up bowling three times a week. Her insomnia began to improve after the first week.

Singing can bring health benefits. Sing at home, or maybe join a choir.

Find activities that fit your day. For example, can you be more physically active at work? One man got better sleep after he began climbing stairs at work instead of taking the elevator.

Music or a beautiful setting can help people enjoy physical activity. How about ballroom dancing or other dance?

Physical activity with meaning or purpose is easier than just “exercising”. One lady developed better sleep after she took up gardening. Another senior was helped by volunteer work that involved physical activity three times a week.

Play with your children.

If you’re a real “couch potato” these days, try adding 5 minute spots of activity to your day. This could be several brief walks. One man who likes television does push-ups during commercial breaks.

Equip yourself with a “pedometer”. This is a device that counts your steps during the day. Medical research shows that people who count their steps tend to become more physically active. (Check this in your sleep diary. Do more steps during the day translate into better sleep at night?)

Various types of massage or “touch healing” can help people who feel uncomfortable or unhappy with their bodies. Look for a therapist that you like and who understands your issues. (See suggestions in Chapter 4.)

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I have a physical disability. What physical activity would help me sleep better?

Seniors and people with physical disabilities often find it hard to be active every day. They may even give up on physical activity without really noticing. This habit of inactivity can cause trouble sleeping.

Some public television networks broadcast programs of yoga/exercise for seniors and people with physical limitations. Even 15 - 20 minutes of regular daily practice could improve sleep.

Often people with physical disabilities don’t recognize all their options for physical activity. They focus more on what their body can’t do, rather than what it can.

Most people can practice daily stretches & breath release. A person with special training could give you ideas:

  • A physiotherapist has movements and stretches for special needs people.
  • A skilled yoga teacher or massage therapist can offer insight.
  • Body awareness practices & techniques (like Feldenkrais or Pilates) teach patterns of freer movement. Look for teachers who have special training or experience working with your type of disability.

Regular massage or “touch healing” is suitable for most people with disabilities. (See suggestions about “alternative sleep aids” and “alternative sleep remedies” in Chapter 4.)

Qigong (“chee gong”) is a traditional Chinese practice of gentle, rhythmic movement. Tai chi (“tie chee”) is one type of qigong. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) considers qigong to be a healing practice. Daily qigong is especially recommended for the elderly or those with chronic illness. Scientific studies begin to confirm these health benefits. Is there a teacher of qigong or tai chi in your community?

Yoga and qigong can be adapted for almost everyone, including people who use wheel chairs or who are confined to bed. If there is no qualified teacher in your community, look for videos or DVDs to guide you. Discuss this with your doctor or rehabilitation specialist.

If your disability will allow, daily singing offers emotional and physical release. If you’re embarrassed, find solitary time and don’t worry about singing “well”. Look for pleasure. Make some noise!

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I like to exercise. Would fitness training give me better sleep?

Some studies show that physically fit people tend to sleep better than those who are not fit. If you enjoy exercise, why not take up fitness training to see if your sleep improves? (First ask your doctor if fitness training is safe for you.)

Fitness training usually includes periods of sustained physical activity that is intense enough to elevate your heart rate, at least 3 times a week.

Schedule your fitness program for the morning or early afternoon. Vigorous exercise in the hours before bed can cause sleeplessness.

If you’d like be more physically fit but you dislike conventional exercise, take up energetic dance or vigorous sport. (Look for fun in fitness.)

Reminder: If you are totally sedentary these days, don’t wait to join the gym. A regular daily walk could be all you need for better sleep. Maybe you could start today?

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Note: This workbook of “Better Sleep Tips” is included with purchase of the Sleep Meditation CD.

Chapter Selection -> 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8-20   Sleep Meditation CD

sleep meditation cd
  • a self-help CD for people who have trouble sleeping
  • easy to follow even if you’ve never meditated before
  • helps occasional and chronic sleeplessness
  • listen to a sample audio clip

CAUTION:“Self Help for Insomnia” is an educational site about adult insomnia & sleep deprivation. This site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. The site provides general information that might not apply to your particular sleep problem.

If you have chronic trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Discuss this site’s information & CD with your doctor to decide what’s appropriate for you.

Be sure to read Chapter 2: Sleep Disorders & Other Medical Causes of Lack of Sleep.


Copyright ©2007 Lucinda Sykes
Permission granted for personal, non-commercial use
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