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Checkup: How Exercise Aids Sleep

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Air date: January 8, 2012

Host: Jeremy Shere, PhD

Check Up Mental Health Nutrition and Exercise Research
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You may have heard that getting more exercise helps you sleep better. But Is it true? To find out, exercise science researcher Paul Loprinzi, of Bellarmine University, looked at the exercise habits and sleep patterns of more than 2600 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 85.

"Overall we found that those who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week, they had a variety of different improvements in different sleep parameters."

In other words, people who were more active seemed to sleep better. But why? One leading idea is called the temperature down regulation theory.

"Which suggests that the onset of sleep is associated with a decline in body temperature, and itís theorized that exercise may have sleep-promoting benefits by activating this temperature-down regulation from exercise-induced body heating.

In other, less technical words, exercising makes us all hot and sweaty, which raises body temperature. Later, when we cool down and the bodyís temperature drops, that somehow primes the cool-down mechanism that kicks in when we fall asleep.

Thatís one theory, anyhow. Other research suggests that because exercise lower stress and anxiety, it also leads to better sleep, which sounds plausible.

In any case, if exercise actually does help you sleep, itís worth trying. Because few things are more important than a good nightís sleep.

"Individuals who do have problems falling asleep or daytime sleepiness, they have an increased likelihood of devloping clinical depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even all-cause mortality, so itís linked with a variety of negative health outcomes."

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Iím Jeremy Shere.