Like most of us, I can have trouble sleeping. We all try to fit too much into our lives and oftentimes sleep takes a backseat to work, family time, exercise, socializing, and other activities. Don’t get me wrong, these are all very important activities in our lives, but we need to remember the profound impact that a proper night’s sleep has on our health.

Aside from its other positive attributes, exercise is quite intricately linked to a positive sleeping experience. Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, decrease the rate of time it takes to fall asleep, and reduce daytime sleepiness. Also, people who sleep less tend to exercise less. We can all probably recognize this in ourselves. When we get a poor night’s sleep we are more likely to skip our workout for that day, or to reduce the effort involved.

Did you know that sleep plays an important role in our appetite? Decreased sleep, or irregular sleeping patterns, interfere with hormonal regulation of hunger and tend to increase appetite and food intake. Studies have also shown that consistently reduced sleep impairs insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

So, what can be done to improve our sleeping habits?

  • Prioritize sleep. Do your really need that extra hour of television time in the evening?
  • Establish a bedtime routine. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
  • Exercise outdoors from time to time. Sunlight can help regulate sleep cycles.
  • No vigorous exercise 3 hours prior to bedtime. This can make sleep more difficult in some people.
  • Exercise regularly (at least 150 minutes weekly)

Of course, life gets busy and from time to time you may not be able to get the sleep you need. Do your best to make this as infrequent as possible. Your health will thank you for it.

Erin Heard, ACSM-Certified Exercise Physiologist at Ridge Athletic Clubs