Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Body Temperature Rhythm & Exercise: Sleep Better This Summer

This time of year, with the longer daylight hours, more to do, and warmer nights, many people can find themselves tossing and turning into the wee hours. It may be tempting to turn to drugs, but most sleep aids can have harmful side effects, not to mention leaving you groggy in the morning. I've got a better suggestion - if you want to instantly increase the quality of your sleep, then start an exercise program if you don't exercise already. Exercise helps you sleep better in a number of ways, not to mention all the other health benefits!

    Chart showing diurnal variation in body temper...
    Chart showing diurnal variation in body temperature, ranging from about 37.5° C. from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., and falling to about 36.3° C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Exercise will raise your body temperature rhythm, and make your body temperature “peak” at a higher level. This will increase your energy levels throughout the day, you'll feel more awake, alive, and motivated. 
  • As your body temperature levels will max out at a higher level, your body temperature will also drop more easily and deeper. This will allow you to sleep deeply, without interruptions. 
  • Regular exercise will prevent your body temperature rhythm from “flat-lining”, which will allow you to sleep deeply even if you've had a stressful day, or couldn't exercise on one particular day. 
  • Exercise delays the body temperature “drop” in the evening, allowing you to stay awake and alert longer without feeling tired and drowsy. 
  •  Exercise is also a great reliever of tension and stress, which as you'll later find out, is a major cause of sleeping disorders. 
If you don't exercise yet, GET A MOVE ON! and start now. The best time to exercise is in the morning, as this will promote a quick temperature rise. However, avoid exercise 3 hours prior to going to sleep, as your body temperature will probably still be on the rise, and you may find falling asleep / sleeping deeply more difficult.

(Photo credit: SurvivalWoman)
However, if you don't exercise, I'm not suggesting you get up off your butt right now, get a membership at your local gym and begin an intense full scale work out program. You can do that if you really want to. However, recent studies show that just moderate exercise during the day has many health benefits. If you can't motivate yourself to start a structured exercise program, you could find a less intensive physical activity that you still enjoy, like walking briskly, biking, rollerblading - these are all great exercise and will still have a substantial effect at raising your body temperature.

BUT, my final point about this would be: What's the point of trying to rejuvenate your body, and increasing the quality of your sleep, if you're not going to USE YOUR BODY? Ultimately, starting any form of exercise will be helpful to your overall health, but where you are really going to benefit is by making regular exercise a part of your daily life (which you enjoy) - not just something you do once in a while to sleep better, or lose a couple of pounds before swimsuit season.
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