Is Exercise a Natural Sleep Aid for Seniors?
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 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, while about 50% experience insomnia when in fact they are not
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 the time that people are looking to head to be. Such exercise has been known to actually keep people awake.
Perhaps the greatest impact from physical exercise on the bodies sleep patterns is the effect working out can have on a person'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 well being, 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 way that people who work out regularly bring to the reduction of insomnia is the notion of schedules. People who take their exercise seriously will build it into their daily regiment, ensuring that time is available for this important task. These people also realize that it is important to develop a sleep routine that includes regular bed time hours as well as regular morning routines. 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 regular 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 are likely to find more long-lasting relief through the use of regular exercise than they ever will by using drug-related sleep aids.