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The exercise sleep connection

Your mother always told you not to exercise late at night, as it would disturb your sleep.  Of course, she was right and nowadays, with the sophisticated sleep studies and the ability to measure hormone levels, including melatonin (the sleep hormone), we can find out all the reasons why.

The simplest explanation may be the most compelling.  We were “genetically matured”, in an environment where we could not effectively control light and dark.  It made sense for our ancestors to work and hunt, during the day and when the sun disappeared, hunker down and take refuge against the beasts of the night.

During our study of some of these human rhythms, it was found that we have light sensitive pathways to our brain (photic pathways through our eyes) and non light sensitive cues as well, one of which is activity level.

So many people have sleep disturbances these days and it is such a negative to health and longevity that I decided to revisit the literature on these topics, again.  It turns out that melatonin, the “sleep hormone”, does indeed work by both pathways, although we are not really sure how its “non photic” component works.

One other very interesting answer to sleep disturbance, I found, was our old friend exercise!

As it turns out, early evening exercise is not bad at all for sleep and may enhance it, especially in people who have trouble falling asleep, due to “racing minds”.

Here are a couple of key points in using early evening exercise to enhance your sleep patterns.  Early evening means before 8 PM.

Next, the exercise that works best is vigorous, which could be interpreted as interval training, lasting about 30 minutes in total, per session.  It may take a few evenings to get the effect, so don’t despair if it does not kick in right away.  Try it every other evening for a week or so and you should be on track.  Interestingly, exercise done this way seems to increase melatonin levels later in the evening and also stimulates the non-photic sleep pathways.

Seems like a great way to get two anti-aging benefits in one: better sleep and good quality exercise.

If all else fails there is always Sleep Wizard!

Sleep tight,

Dr Dave

P.S. fans of fractal time and 12/21/2012, will recognize that everything we know has a rhythm of some sort.  Figuring them out in people is one of the most fascinating anti-aging disciplines out there.

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