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Tips on Sleep & Exercise During COVID-19

Exercise

Experts say cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and yoga done during the day can help you sleep better. Getty Images

  • Experts say exercise can help you sleep better if you’re tossing and turning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • They say exercising during the day is better than working out at night due to body temperature and heart rhythm fluctuations.
  • Experts add that cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and yoga are effective exercises for better sleep.
  • They also say to avoid alcohol and screen time in the hours before going to bed.

Let’s face it, us humans sleep close to 8 hours each day, which roughly about one third of our lives. Astonishing isn’t it? Did you know that remaining two thirds are affected depending on how much sleep you get?

With this whole Coronavirus situation some of us actually struggle to fit in our daily activities let alone get adequate sleep, however, according to experts sleep is essential.“Stress can affect sleep and it is so important to get good quality sleep during this pandemic,” said Dr. Alison Mitzner, a pediatrician, writer, and mother of two. “It’s a cycle, as sleep can affect stress and stress can affect sleep. The lack of sleep can also make you more impatient and more stressed.”

“Just as diet and exercise is important for overall health, so is sleep, especially with the pandemic,” Mitzner told Healthline.

The pandemic is not only affecting our daily routine, it’s also affecting our internal mechanism. “COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s body, not just those who have the virus, added Dr. Raul A. Perez-Vazquez, who practices internal medicine for Tenet Florida. During the pandemic and social isolation, the issue has become more prevalent,” he told Healthline. “Our cycles — temperature and circadian (body clock) — have been disrupted as we spend more time indoors, possibly not aware of the time of day.”

“Increased exposure to blue light from screens will decrease melatonin, which usually fluctuates with our circadian rhythm, also impairing sleep,” he added.

Many medical practioners have recording a break in metabolic patterns and also lack of increased stress levels. “Many folks have forgotten about good sleep hygiene during the pandemic and are sleeping at all hours,” Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline. “It’s important to get out of bed at the same time each day and try to limit time in bed to 7 to 9 hours, based on the amount of sleep one typically gets.”

“If able, avoid naps,” she added. “Or at least keep them under 20 minutes, because daytime napping can lead to nighttime insomnia.”

The best time to exercise

The body requires three essential basic steps in order to function adequately, they are sleep, diet and exercise. All three of these steps are interlinked and have an impact on one another

Doctors and fitness experts swear that exercise can be a major factor on sleep but warns on noxious effects of exercising at the wrong time. “To sleep better at night, get moving during the day,” said Christina Pierpaoli, a sleep researcher and committee member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine. “Sleep pressure — or the body’s hunger for sleep — accumulates with increasing time spent awake and dissipates with the opportunity to sleep,” she told Healthline.

“Vigorous, moderate, or even mild daytime energy expenditure in the form of cardiovascular exercise — walking, swimming, household chores, etc. — stimulates something called adenosine, which builds sleep pressure,” she said. “Daytime energy expenditure means more sleep pressure and, usually, improved sleep.”

“You can think about it like money,” Pierpaoli added. “If you have $100 and you spend $50 of it, you won’t have that money later. The same calculus applies to our energy levels. Energy spent earlier in the day means less later, translating into quicker, deeper, and more consolidated sleep.”

During sleep the temperature of the body generally rises, according to medical professionals, the body temperature is related to sleep and there’s a natural decline in body temperature that occurs at night to signal your body to sleep. “There are things you can do to help your body temperature trigger sleep,” Seti told Healthline. “One of them is exercise. When you exercise, your body temperature rises. That temperature rise maintains for a few hours and then it steadily starts to drop. This drop can work with your body’s natural circadian rhythm and help promote sleepiness.” Says Dr. Candice Seti, a licensed psychologist and certified insomnia

“The way to do that is to get in 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-level aerobic activity and do it about 3 to 6 hours before bedtime,” she added.

Everybody agrees that exercising just before bed is a terrible idea. It not only heats up the body but also causes a lot of problems. “It can cause insomnia for many,” said Bill Fish, a certified sleep coach and managing editor of SleepFoundation.org, which recently published “Sleep Guidelines During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“There has yet to be a conclusive study to show exactly the peak time to exercise to help with sleep, but one thing is certain: You should be completely relaxed at least 45 minutes before going to bed,” Fish told Healthline. “Meaning, if you do work out, you should be showered and back to normal body temperature at least 45 minutes prior, to give your body time to relax and prepare for rest.”

“Beyond that, as long as you are getting 30 minutes of cardio throughout the day, you put yourself in a good position to get to rest quickly,” he noted.

What exercises are best?

Fitness enthusiasts and trainers believe certain exercises are better than others when considering aiding sleep. The idea here is not over exhaust yourself though says Dr. Bryan Bruno. The medical director of Mid City TMS, a New York City clinic that treats depression. “From walking to running to high intensity workouts, cardio is proven to promote better sleep,” “A walk on a treadmill or around your neighborhood is an easy way to get your cardiovascular workout for the day.”

Exercise

“While it may seem intimidating, strength training can be done in the comfort of your home,” he told Healthline.

“Pushups, bicep curls, and squats are simple and convenient strength exercises that will exhaust your muscles and enhance your sleep quality and duration,” he said. “Strength training can increase your time in deep sleep, the most restorative sleep.”

Some would say that Yoga might be a better option when considering some light activity before bedtime. “If someone is struggling with falling asleep, yoga can be beneficial for insomnia at the start of the night,” Dr. Benjamin Troy, a board certified psychiatrist and medical reviewer for medical startup Choosing Therapy, told Healthline. “Yoga seems most helpful when a focus is placed on taking deep, relaxed breaths.”

Exercise

Tips that should help

Researchers believe there are a number of ways people could exercise during the pandemic to remain healthy or simply to promote better sleep.

One of the best ways recommended is to wake up early and start the day with some light to moderate exercise. Then gradually increase the intensity.

Experts advice not to exercise anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours before bedtime.

Do something that gets your heart rate up or breaks a sweat during the day. Daylight is good for sleep cycles.

If you have to exercise in the evening, do something meditative like yoga. Pierpaoli said studies show evening exercise can enhance deep sleep as long as it’s done at least an hour before bedtime.

Other tips for better sleep:

  • Do something relaxing before bed such as meditating, praying, or taking a warm bath at least an hour before sleep. Whatever is calming.
  • Avoid alcohol or heavy meals 2 to 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable.

“Things will get better and people can achieve good, restful sleep during this chaotic time, especially if they make reasonable attempts to prioritize sleep and practice good sleep hygiene,” Pierpaoli said.

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