With millions of dollars being spent in the United States every year on devices and medications designed to aid sleep, it is remarkable that so many people are ignoring one of the most highly effective and inexpensive sleep aids available. It is completely portable, can be done at any time of day or night, comes in a variety of styles to fit any lifestyle or person, yet when physicians, sleep experts and friends and family members recommend it, many turn it down? What is this miracle sleep aid? It’s exercise. When the National Sleep Foundation conducted its 2013 Sleep in America poll, they found a high correlation between exercise and better sleep. They interviewed 1,000 Americans and found that over 75% of those that exercised reported either “fairly good” or “very good” sleep quality, while only 56% of those who did not exercise reported that same level of sleep satisfaction. Conversely, 14% of those who did not exercise reported “very bad” sleep quality, while only 3% of exercisers expressed this same low level. Max Hirshkowitz, PhD is the sleep center director of the Department of Medicine of the Houston Veterans Medical Center. He says, “There’s a very strong relationship between good sleep and exercise. People who report exercise sleep better than people who don’t exercise. Their sleep quality is better, they feel better, their general health is improved, and they have fewer bad nights of sleep.” As the task force chair for the 2013 poll, he categorized participants’ exercise into four different activity levels:
- Vigorous – Activities that need hard physical effort, such as running, cycling, swimming or competitive sports. 18% of participants represented.
- Moderate – Activities that required more effort than normal, such as yoga, Tai chi or weight lifting. 25% of participants represented.
- Light – Walking. 48% of participants represented.
- No activity – Less than ten minutes of physical activity in the previous week. 9% of participants represented.