top of page

Exercise, SLEEP, Repeat

As a physical therapist, I get to see a variety of injuries and health related issues, both chronic and acute. In addition to prescribing specific exercise programs directed at treating a patient’s injury, I also try to address their overall health and wellness, since health is related to their overall recuperative ability and success. Often these conversations address the 4 pillars of health; sleep, exercise, nutrition and stress control.

SLEEP…one of the 4 pillars of health, and probably the most important one, has an influence on nearly every aspect of life. From stress, to decreased productivity, to chronic disease, a lack of sleep sets off a cascade of negative effects that wreak havoc on normal body homeostasis and ultimately one’s health. Insomnia is now estimated to be the #1 health-related problem in America. According to the CDC, 1/3 of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. Also, the use of prescription sleeping pills has drastically risen in recent years.

The interdependent relationship between sleep, stress and health

Sleep is primarily regulated by your circadian rhythm (also known as your sleep/wake cycle or body clock). This process is a natural, internal system that's designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. Check out this short video that shows the process that controls sleep

So, while we live in a world that promotes both exercise and productivity, two things that are often at odds with each other, a good night’s rest should be at the top of our priority list when it comes to health.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are far reaching. These include:

· Improved ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE and reduced fatigue

· ENHANCED CONCENTRATION, memory and decision making

· INCREASED REPAIR of the body’s tissues

· DECREASED levels of ANXIETY and depression


· Maintenance of NORMAL HORMONE levels

· REDUCED PAIN sensitivity

· Controlled blood sugar

How to get a good night’s sleep? Here are a few tips!

1. Make PHYSICAL ACTIVITY a normal part of your day:

Recent research indicates that exercise decreases sleep complaints and insomnia in individuals. The effects of exercise on sleep appear to be similar to those of sleeping pills. Physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase, and can help increase the duration of nightly rest. Keep in mind however, that over training and working out late in the day can have a negative effect on sleep.

2. STRETCH or MEDITATE before bed:

Stretching, which can certainly be meditative when practiced in a quiet, tranquil environment, prepares your mind and body for sleep. It provides a time and a place for you to focus on yourself and be mindful. Stretching before bed helps you enter a relaxed state and signals your subconscious to stop worrying. A 2016 review of multiple studies showed a direct link between meditative movements (ie stretching and yoga) and good sleep.

3. LIMIT intake of stimulants like CAFFEINE and avoid 6 hours before bed:

Who doesn’t love a good cup of Joe? I certainly do. After all, caffeine has been shown to improve performance and mental clarity. But timing is everything. Studies show that caffeine can delay the timing of your body clock and disrupt your circadian rhythm. These effects can reduce your total sleep time and the quality of your sleep.

4. Keep room COOL, DARK and QUIET:

As nighttime approaches, our body temperature naturally drops, signaling that it’s time to slow down and get some rest. By keeping your bedroom cooler, you’re reinforcing your body’s natural instinct to sleep. It turns out that rooms with temperatures in the range of 60 to 68 degrees stimulate the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Light and darkness are powerful cues that tell your body it’s time to rest, or get you ready for a productive day. Artificial light after dark can send wake-up messages to the brain, suppressing the production melatonin and making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. That means turn off those glowing devices in your room, or use a sleep mask!

5. AVOID DEVICES or TV for 2 hours before bed:

As tempting as it might be, avoid checking your email, perusing your social media accounts or watching a movie just before bed. Devices such as tablets, laptops and smart phones emanate blue-light. This particular wavelength of light can interrupt your circadian rhythm, and suppresses the release of sleep-inducing melatonin. Instead, try reading a good ol’ print book under the light of a bedside lamp or listen to your favorite podcast.

6. Stay on a sleep SCHEDULE and wake up naturally WITHOUT an ALARM CLOCK

Ideally, you should stick to the same sleep schedule every night so your body can find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle. Many people with inconsistent sleep schedules also report restless sleep, meaning you never enter the stages of the deep, quality sleep your brain and body need to restore themselves.

Derek Tuohy, PT, MTC, CSCS


bottom of page