Kelly Baron is a clinical psychologist and renowned sleep researcher at Northwestern University in the United States. For a long time she was a supporter of the use of physical activity to improve the quality of sleep, but the complaints of patients began to indicate otherwise. People have complained that they don’t sleep any better the night after an intense fitness session than they did before the sport. Dr. Baron decided to take a closer look at the problem.
The first study involved several women and one man. Respondents were united by respectable age (from 60 years old), insomnia and a sedentary lifestyle. Some were told not to change their habits, for the rest, the scientists compiled an exercise program of three to four half-hour sessions per week. Fitness lessons included exercises on a stationary bike and a treadmill. The people were observed for four months.
By the end of this period, it turned out that physically active volunteers sleep much stronger and almost an hour longer. They also noted that they feel more energetic and less sleepy.
Dr. Baron decided to find out if such an effect appeared instantly. The response received was negative. Halfway through the program, participants noted that their insomnia symptoms had not disappeared. Sometimes they slept very badly and the next day they could not do all the exercises.
The experiment was not large-scale: only twelve people were involved in it, most of whom were women. However, scientists tend to believe that the findings apply equally to male athletes.
How does sleep health depend on training?
Scientists note that people with insomnia differ significantly in neurological terms. Their nervous system is characterized by a strong overstrain, which cannot be relieved with a one-time workout or a short course of exercises. Intense fitness is a serious stress for the human body and can impair the quality of a night’s rest for a short time.
Long-term training programs have a beneficial effect. By exercising regularly, a person dampens the body’s response to stress, making it feel the need to replenish strength through sleep.
So far, there have been no more detailed studies examining the influence of various types of loads, as well as the time of classes. It is not known what will make a person sleep better — a morning set or an evening workout. But preliminary results clearly point to the benefits of regular exercise for insomniacs. You should not expect an instant effect — it will appear no earlier than in four months, but it will be stronger and safer than the result of taking pills and herbal preparations.