Sleepless Nights? You Can Put the Pills Away

Older people experiencing age-related sleep issues are likely to find more long-term relief through the use of regular exercise than they ever will by means of drug-related sleep aids.

There are a number of reasons why exercise, particularly if performed at the right time of day, is considered the most positive sleep aid for seniors. None, however, are more significant than the fact that exercise is a completely natural form of aid. But before discussing why exercise is such a great sleep aid, it is important to examine both the definition of insomnia and the reasons that people suffer from this affliction.

At its basic level, insomnia is defined as a difficulty to either fall or stay asleep, or to experience sleep that seems inadequate or fails to produce the refreshing feeling that sleep normally provides, despite the length of time spent sleeping.

Insomnia affects about 10% of adults

Insomnia is not considered a disease, rather it is a symptom that is thought to have numerous, quite different causes. Of the types of things that can lead to patterns of insomnia, physicians note that physical disorders, drinking large amounts of alcohol in the evening, emotional problems, and stress are at the forefront. Research has also shown that sometimes the failure to sleep soundly is simply due to a lack of fatigue.

It is important to note that difficulty falling asleep is common among all age groups, from the very young to the elderly. Data indicates that about 10% of adults have chronic, or regular bouts of insomnia.

Because exercise effects the body is so many positive ways, it is clearly the most natural option for helping address sleep related issues. Regular exercise will first of all help tire the body physically, ensuring a natural form of fatigue that the body will address with a need to get appropriate rest. The only negative research on physical exercise is that spending time late in the evening can often stimulate the heart and brain too much just prior to bedtime. Such exercise has been known to actually keep people awake.

Perhaps the greatest impact from physical exercise on sleep patterns is the mood-lifting effects it can have on one’s emotional state. Because stress and worry are often the key impediments to sleep, efforts to reduce such stress are critical to eliminate the symptoms that are at the root cause of insomnia. Activity is shown to improve a person’s self-confidence and sense of wellbeing, thereby helping improve a person’s overall mood and attitude about life. The natural endorphins that are produced when we exercise help us feel better emotionally and actually reduce feelings of sadness and depression. Therefore people who exercise regularly sleep better. Their positive emotional state helps them fall asleep more quickly, while their body fatigue level allows them to sleep more deeply and awake less often during the night.

Yet one other benefit of regular exercise is that it helps people stay on schedule.  When a workout plan or exercise regimen is a part of one’s daily life, it is easier to develop a sleep routine that includes regular bed time and waking hours. By following a regular sleep schedule and getting up at the same time each morning, even if it is a weekends, your body will respond by developing consistent sleep habits. Because total nighttime sleeping time tends to decrease with age, older people may sleep better if they go to bed later, get up earlier, or nap less during the day.

Older people experiencing age-related sleep issues should always consult a doctor before embarking on any new exercise plan.  For individuals who are limited because of physical reasons, yoga may be a viable alternative.  Yoga is known to reduce stress and can also provide many of the same benefits as a strenuous workout plan.

For More Reading:

5 Senior Exercise Safety Tips
Yoga for the Elderly – Seniors’ Way to Be Fit
Sleep and Aging: The Facts about Seniors and Sleep
Yoga for beginners including senior citizens

Image Credits:

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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