Count reps, not sheep, as way to ensure sleep

First Posted: 1/15/2009

Here is a little quiz to see whether or not you are sleep deprived. Answer honestly the following:
Do you find yourself nodding off during normally stimulating events such as church services or golf telecasts?
Have you ever gone to an important meeting at work and then suddenly awoken in the conference room face down in your own drool?
Have you ever looked frantically for your keys and glasses only to find the keys are in your pocket and your glasses on top of your head?
Have you ever been sitting at your computer, trying to work, when you find your head involuntarily falling forwgggggggggggggg. (oops sorry!) If you answered yes to any of the above, then you may be suffering from a lack of good sleep.
Fatigue as defined in Webster's Dictionary means tired or, more specifically, tired from working. While I consider myself more tired “of” than “from” working, I can still relate. Being tired is our body's way of saying slow down, relax, take it easy, and put your feet up. Yeah right! Sure, I will take that rest right after eight-plus hours of work, making dinner, instructing 12 first-graders on the finer points of soccer, taxing the twins all over the greater Lumberton area and writing my column.
Sound like your schedule as well? While those that get it, take it for granted and those that don't would do almost anything for it. A good night's sleep, just like eating right and getting exercise, is essential to good health.
So what is a busy adult to do? How about making time for a little more exercise? Before you stop reading, and assume I have crossed over that fine line into insanity, hear me out. When you are tired, stressed out and worn out, exercise is exactly what you need to get a good nights rest.
Research shows that exercise may improve sleep quality in several different ways: Promote the ability to fall asleep faster, stay in deep restorative sleep longer, and feel more rested when you awaken. Here are some frenqently asked questions on the role of exercise and sleep.
- Exercise makes me too wound up at bedtime so how can I sleep? People who have difficulty sleeping find that exercise too late in the day winds them up. In that case, it is better to exercise first thing in the morning or at midday to re-energize yourself. Trial-and-error will tell you what time of day is best.
- I exercise a great deal, but why am I am still tired? Though not very common for most exercisers, over-training can cause fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Persons involved in elite training such as marathoners and professional athletes need to monitor their workouts to prevent over training.
- Should I skip my workout when I feel fatigued? Let your body be the judge. If you feel unusually tired beyond what is normal you might need to take a day off. Also if you are suffering from a cold or virus it is best to take it easy until your symptoms subside.
- What kind of exercise works best? Trial and error will tell you what exercise best promotes sleep for you. A combination of cardiovascular and strength training or mind body exercises such as Yoga and Pilates are excellent for promoting sleep.
Keeping your exercise routine is essential in helping you get a good nights rest. However, if you do get regular exercise and still cannot get to sleep, look for other things that can interfere. Some medications, too much caffeine and some medical conditions can interfere with sleep. In that case, contact your physician for guidance. See you in the gym, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

-Kathy Hansen is the assistant fitness director of the Southeastern Lifestyle Center, for Fitness and Rehabilitation.

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