Goals of the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation include improving sleep health and safety through education, public awareness and advocacy. For more about the NSF and the Sleep in America poll, go to www.sleepfoundation.org.
• Make exercise a part of every day. Vigorous exercise is better, but even moderate exercise can help you sleep better and improve your overall health.
• Make your bedroom a place of rest, comfortable and dark, with no electronics of any kind. If you can't fall asleep, instead of tossing and turning go to another room and do something calming until you feel sleepy.
• Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking at the same time every day.
• Watch for signs of a possible sleep problem. If you are too sleepy during the day or if you snore, get yourself screened for sleep apnea.
Source: Dr. Anuj Chandra
Having trouble sleeping? Try exercising.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep in America's recently released survey of 1,000 adults, people who exercise more are significantly more likely to sleep better than nonexercisers.
"Exercising lightly won't make you sleep better, but doing serious workouts will," says sleep expert Dr. Vincent Viscomi, Memorial Hospital's Regional Sleep Center medical director.
Dr. Anuj Chandra, a certified sleep specialist at The Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders in Chattanooga, says in a news release that the survey helps sleep experts better understand people's behavior.
"It gives us a tool to talk to patients about how they can get healthier sleep," he says.
Compared to nonexercisers, people who say they exercise vigorously are much more likely to report getting a good night's sleep. They're also much less likely to report sleep problems such as having trouble falling asleep or waking early and not being able to go to sleep again, the survey shows.
"Your body releases endorphins. There's hormonal benefits, and your circulation is better. You don't have stiff muscles because you've stretched your joints and, if you're a diabetic with sugar issues, you've burned glucose," Viscomi says. "All of these are beneficial to sleeping. When your body needs to rebuild, you sleep. It's natural feedback."
Nonexercisers are about twice as likely to be at risk for sleep apnea and three times as likely to have trouble staying awake while driving, the study shows. If you don't sleep well, you might not be inclined to exercise; 57 percent reported lower levels of physical activity after a bad night's sleep, according to the survey.
Viscomi and Chandra say the survey results had a few surprises.
Chandra says he was surprised to see the results show that exercising at any time of day seems to be good for sleep. The results showed no difference between exercising earlier in the day and exercising close to bedtime.
"For years, we believed that exercising close to bedtime would keep you awake, but it doesn't seem to be true here," he says.
"That's good news for people who have trouble fitting exercise into their schedule earlier. But anyone being treated for insomnia whose treatment regimen restricts nighttime exercise should continue to follow those guidelines."
However, Viscomi disagrees. He still recommends completing vigorous exercising two to three hours before going to bed.
"A vigorous work causes the heart rate and body temperatures to rise, making it difficult to sleep right away," Vicsomi says.
For people in the workplace whose job requires them to sit most of the day, Viscomi recommends getting up every 30 minutes for at least a little exercise.
"Get around and stretch. When you're stationary, your blood flow is comprised. Sitting is not a natural position. It restricts blood flow to the heart."