Regular difficulty falling or staying asleep, called chronic insomnia, is the most common sleep disorder among adults. In the search for better, more restful nights, some patients turn to exercise to ease their symptoms.
Studies found that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise improves the sleep of patients with chronic insomnia. Those who exercise typically fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than those who are sedentary.
It is difficult to ignore the benefits of a more restful sleep. Top performing athletes credit good sleep with their success. Recent studies have shown that longer nights rest significantly improve measures of athletic performance, including speed, reaction time, and accuracy.
Additionally, poor sleep is linked to weight gain. Adults and children who get inadequate sleep are as much as 85% more likely to become obese. This may have to do with how the body regulates appetite. Studies show that those who got a full night's rest tend to eat fewer calories than their peers. In any case, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease. In this way, regularly getting a good night's rest can benefit the heart.
Research also suggests that poor sleepers may have an increased risk of type two diabetes. In experiments where sleep was restricted, insulin sensitivity was reduced.
In addition to the effects it has on the heart, healthy sleep habits also contribute to increased concentration and productivity. One study found that sleep-deprived medical interns made 36% more serious medical errors than did interns who got a decent night's rest. Other studies have found that the effects of sleep deprivation are similar to those of alcohol intoxication.
Sleep is also improves the function of the immune system. Even minimal sleep loss has been shown to impair immune system function. Studies have found that people who sleep less than seven hours are nearly three times more likely to develop a cold then persons who slept eight or more hours.
Another way poor sleep influences health is through increased inflammation. Sleep loss is known to increase inflammation within the body and is strongly linked to long-term inflammation in the digestive tract. For people with Crohn's disease, sleeplessness makes them twice as likely to experience a relapse than patients who sleep well.
These are just some of the ways sleeplessness can negatively impact health. For many, adding regular exercise to their routine may be the answer to getting a better night's rest.