In a study conducted at Tufts University -- published in 1997 in the journal Sleep -- 32 elderly men and women, described as slightly to moderately depressed, participated in either a 10-week strength-training program or a control group. The exercise group completed three strength-training sessions each week. At the end of the study, the strength-training group reported significant improvement over the control group in both quality of sleep and quality of life.
Admittedly, research in this area is limited. Most studies so far have focused on the elderly, who are most likely to suffer from insomnia, and it's impossible to be certain the results will also apply to other age groups. Still, a lot of anecdotal evidence supports the idea that one of the benefits of regular exercise is better sleep.
It's important to consult your physician to determine the underlying cause of your insomnia and discuss possible remedies. If you are interested in starting an exercise program, keep the following tips in mind:
- Include aerobic, strengthening, and stretching components in your workout plan.
- Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise each day.
- Do strengthening exercises two to three non-consecutive days of the week.
- Do stretching exercises every day for 15 to 30 minutes after a warmup.
- If you exercise later in the day, wait at least an hour before lying down or going to bed. Going to bed too soon after exercising could exacerbate insomnia.