Sleep is vital for our overall health. Getting excessive or insufficient sleep is related to several diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, mood disorders, and dementia11-13. A good night’s sleep is important for mood and cognitive ability14. However, as we will discuss in this chapter, there is variability in the amount needed and preferred time of bed. We will also discuss practical tips for improving sleep and why exercise is vital for a good night’s sleep.
Have you ever met someone who is up until 3 am every night, or conversely someone who wakes up at 5 am every day? These individuals likely have different Chronotypes. Chronotype is the behavioral manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms that control an individual’s sleep/wake cycles. A person’s chronotype is the propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period. When our work, classes, or social engagements require us to be in conflict with our chronotype, our sleep suffers. Michael Breus, also called “The Sleep Doctor,” is a clinician and researcher who focuses on educating and solving sleep problems for people who are at odds with their chronotype. Watch the video for an overview of the four chronotypes. It includes helpful recommendations for each chronotype to improve sleep.
Circadian rhythm- An internal 24 hours clock, which is responsible for your sleep/wake cycle.
Chronotype- An individual’s propensity to sleep at a particular time.
More than one-third of individuals report sleep problems at some point in their life. Sleep problems over 12 months range from 16.4% to 26% and are characterized by: difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep or early awakening. While we can’t always control when we have to wake up for school or work, practicing good sleep hygiene can improve our sleep.
Our behaviors throughout the day and before going to bed can have a tremendous impact on our sleep. Below we offer suggestions to help improve your sleep hygiene.
What are the signs of poor sleep hygiene?
On a given night, do you wake up multiple times, or are you excessively sleepy during the day? Additionally, are you taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep once you try to sleep? If you are having trouble sleeping or feeling fatigued, you may want to consider your sleep hygiene. Evaluating your sleep routine or developing a sleep routine and implementing changes in your environment can help cue your body for sleep. This can decrease the number of nights you spend tossing and turning.
Exercise for Improved Sleep
If you are struggling to fall asleep at night, starting an exercise routine may help you fall asleep quicker. Acute exercise regardless of when the exercise is performed improves the amount of time you sleep, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, and improves the efficiency of sleep15. Individuals who regularly exercise show similar benefits to those observed in acute exercise. Regular exercisers also show considerable improvements in perceived sleep quality. Poor perceived sleep quality can often be a significant issue.
Exercising outside earlier in the day exposes you to natural light which is important in the regulation of the circadian rhythm. The sleep foundation recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. This breaks down to around 30 minutes, five days a week. The timing of this activity can matter. Exercise raises body temperature and high body temperature can negatively impact sleep. It is important to ensure that if you’re doing intense exercise you have sufficient time to cool down prior to your desired sleep time. Lowering your house thermostat can aid in cooling off after an intense exercise close to bed.