We’ll go to all lengths to get a good night’s sleep. In the U.S. more than 100 million people say they suffer from insomnia, and sleeping pills like Ambien or Lunesta are often the first choice.
But many are probably missing the best option. It’s the healthiest choice, says Dr. Grant Fowler, a family medicine physician with UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-TMC. He recommends exercise as a sleep aid. “Just flat out getting exercise improves the quality of sleep, the amount you’re able to sleep, the number of pills you need to take to sleep, and it’s even been shown to help a bit with sleep apnea,” he says, referring to the weight loss that comes with exercise. Fowler says it doesn’t matter what time of day you work out your muscles, or what kind of exercise you do, though he says there are those additional benefits to throwing in some type of aerobics. “Literally getting off the couch for a good walking program. For aerobics you can cycle, or swim, whatever will work for you,” Dr. Fowler suggests. He says to start off small and work up. “We’d hope for everybody to get two or two-and-a-half hours a week,” he encourages.
Most critical, says Dr. Fowler, is getting enough sleep. “Everyone needs seven to eight hours a night,” he says firmly. It’s the same thing the CDC and all medical experts say: we’re a sleep-deprived nation that isn’t getting enough shut-eye. Dr. Fowler says exercise contributes to increasing the amount of sleep you get each night.
So if you find yourself tossing and turning more than you want, try tossing around a baseball or turning your after-dinner TV watching-time into a comfortable, energetic stroll. You’ll sleep better.