Poor sleep can drastically affect your quality of life, and in turn, your lifestyle choices can affect your sleep. Relationships, physical fitness, diet and mood are all factors when it comes to sleep and well-being. Here are some ways to improve both.
Exercise can improve sleep
According to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation poll, people who exercise sleep better than those who don’t, even if they sleep the same amount each night - six hours and 51 minutes a night, on average, during the week. People who exercise vigorously were twice as likely to report they had a good night’s sleep compared to non-exercisers. More than two-thirds of the exercisers said they rarely or never had symptoms of insomnia. In contrast, 50 percent of the non-exercisers said they woke up during the night and 24 percent said they had difficulty falling asleep every night.
In addition, 24 percent of the non-exercisers were excessively sleepy during the day and 61 percent said they never had a good night’s sleep on a work night. Researchers say that poor sleep makes people less inclined to exercise, which turns into a vicious circle.
Another recent study has found that the benefits of daily exercise for insomnia may take up to four months to appear. The report, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, looked at data from a previous study of 11 sedentary middle-aged or older women who were diagnosed with insomnia. Rather than looking at the daily pattern of exercise and sleep, researchers looked at a long-term pattern, and found that exercise did affect sleep, and vice versa, but not immediately.
Researchers say that when people have poor sleep, their perception of exhaustion changes, so they feel more exhausted, even though poor sleep doesn’t actually affect aerobic capacity. Their best advice is to force yourself to exercise, even if you don’t feel like it. It will help in the long run.
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A Mediterranean diet may also improve sleep
The combination of eating a Mediterranean diet and exercising may improve the symptoms of sleep apnea, according to a 2011 study published in the European Respiratory Journal. Researchers looked at 40 obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea, of which 20 followed a prudent diet and the others followed a Mediterranean diet.
They were also encouraged to exercise more, most walking 30 minutes or more each day. All patients received continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) therapy while they slept. Researchers monitored the patients during sleep, looking for several markers for sleep apnea, including electrical activity in the brain, eye movements and snoring.
They found that the people following the Mediterranean diet had a reduced number of apneas during rapid eye movement, and showed a greater adherence to the diet. They also were more physically active and lost more abdominal fat. Though the results showed an improvement in one stage of sleep, it did not improve the overall severity of the condition.