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Doctors say for better sleep hygiene, try exercising about three times a week.
Science shows that exercise increases the total amount of sleep you get, especially the amount of slow-wave sleep, the pre-REM (rapid eye movement) recovery period when the brain and body are most rejuvenated.
“The hypothesis is that slow-wave sleep is associated with decreased body temperature,” says Dr. Cinthya Pena Orbea, a sleep disorder specialist at Cleveland Clinic. “When you exercise, your body temperature rises, which causes your body temperature to drop even more at night.” Although many studies have viewed moderate cardio as a sweet spot, “we generally say that all your body can tolerate is the amount of exercise you should be doing,” says Dr. Pena Orbea. That said, if you’re into intense exercise, this is the trick too. In fact, she says, exercise should be part of your sleep hygiene about three times a week.
The bedtime magic of exercise goes beyond affecting your slow wave phase. A new analysis of studies of exercise and sleep in healthy older adults in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that those who do weight training fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently throughout the night. Yoga exercises are effective when stress is preventing you from nodding off.
These findings hold true for younger adults as well, says lead study author Julie Vanderlinden, MD, public health scientist and sleep therapist. “A combination of exercises showed the highest percentage of significantly improved sleep results,” she says. And the more consistent you are over time, the better: exercising three times a week for 12 weeks and beyond will get the best results.
This is where this training comes in. Luke Milton, the founder of Training Mate studio in Los Angeles, put together a mini-routine for the latest Shape Studio video episode that is set to be successful in many ways. “A healthy lifestyle is equal parts physical, social, and mental health,” says Milton. “Sleep is so important to all three.”
His approach puts you in the moderate training zone by training the lower body muscles and then the upper body muscles. “It effectively moves oxygen-containing blood cells between major muscle groups,” he says. It also means releasing “all of those good feelings” from the exercise high – and the stress that can later affect your sleep. Milton follows each lower-upper pair with an “orifice movement” like a cobra pose for a downward facing dog and back again. The goal: your tight hips. “Movement exercises actually relieve the pain and tension associated with this part of the body. If you do that, you can sleep better right away, ”he says. (Want more stretches? Try these yoga poses for loosening up stiff backs and shoulders.)
Strength and stretching training for better sleep
How it works: Do each move for 45 seconds at a time without resting between pulls. Repeat the circuit a second time.
You need: a pair of light to medium weight dumbbells or weighted household items.
Curl and squeeze
A. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms by your sides, palms facing in.
BB Curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, palms still facing in, elbows close to your ribs.
C. Press the dumbbells over your head so that the dumbbells are stacked directly over your shoulders and the core stays engaged.
DD Reverse the movement to return to the start.
A. Stand with your feet and toes wide at a 45-degree angle. Hold a single dumbbell (or other weighted object) horizontally in front of your chest with both hands.
BB Inhale to bend your knees and swing your hips to lower yourself into a crouch. Make sure that your knees run over your toes. Pause when your hips are at knee level.
C. Exhale to push through your metatarsus to stand and come back to begin.
Cobra pose to Downward Dog
A. Lie face down on the floor. Place your palms under your shoulders and press them into your hands to straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor. Pull your shoulders away from your ears and relax your glutes.
BB Lift your hips and roll over your toes to move into a downward facing dog that forms an upside down V shape with your body. Drop your heels on the floor and relax your head between your arms.
C. Move your hips forward to return to the cobra.
Flexed triceps extension
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hang a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Bend your knees slightly and fold them forward at the hips so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle. Row the dumbbells toward your ribs and pull your elbows firmly to begin.
BB Extend your arms and press your triceps to straighten the dumbbells backwards.
C. Take a short break, then return to the start.
A. Start standing with your feet together, a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Roll your shoulders back and down, reaching into the core for proper posture.
BB Take a large step back with your right foot to lower yourself into a lunge and bend both knees 90 degrees. Stop before the back knee hits the floor.
C. Squeeze your back foot to kick forward and return to start.
DD Repeat on the other side. Continue alternately.
Stand adductor stretch
A. Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Extend your right leg to the side and balance on your right heel.
BB Push your hips back to feel a stretch in the inside of your right thigh. If this is too easy, lower yourself onto your elbows.
Repeat for 45 seconds.
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