The thought of exercising while you are suffering insomnia can be the last thing on your mind.

With extreme sleep deprivation breaking the cycle might seem impossible, but the right type of exercise can really help AND lead to increased energy!

Any logical person might think that simply exercising hard to wear yourself out is ideal for helping you sleep. But often this approach can actually add to the stress that is quite likely to be causing insomnia in the first place.


Insomnia causes

Low blood sugar

This is a common cause of stress and waking in the night. Not being able to fall asleep because of being ‘wired’ and having a racing mind is another common cause.

Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar and a diet high in starchy refined carbohydrates

These can disrupt the delicate blood sugar levels during the day. This, alongside bright lights at night time can all interfere with the natural cycle of cortisol (a stress hormone) and blood sugars, therefore disrupting the natural sleep pattern.

How to deal with insomnia

I would always recommend beginning by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, sugar and refined carbohydrates, dimming lights at night and avoiding digital devices and stimulating television right before bed.

Meditation and deep breathing is another effective method to use.

Exercises to fight insomnia

Adding in the right exercise to fight insomnia can further increase your chances of a full night of slumber.

Here are the best types of exercise to help manage stress, keep blood sugars levels even and therefore help to create uninterrupted sleep.

Low-Intensity exercise

Any low-intensity leisure activity is great for insomniacs because it helps lower stress hormones as opposed to raising them. Examples include:

– Gentle walking outside in nature
– Non-strenuous Yoga
– Pilates
– Slow swimming
– Tai Chi
– Foam rolling and general stretching.

how to deal with insomnia_2High-Intensity Interval Training

Adding in short burst HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions lasting around 10-20 minutes can actually help manage stress hormones, insulin sensitivity and suppress the appetite.

This is because of the way that it generates not only the stress hormones, but the human growth hormones and other beneficial anabolic hormones which in turn can help lower stress levels in general.

This is how our ancestors would have primarily lived and moved.

As hunter/gatherers they would have either been foraging and walking at low intensity for miles each day or on occasion running/sprinting to either escape from predators or to catch their food. Examples include:

– Short burst sprints
– Circuits
Resistance training and weight lifting
– Metabolic conditioning
– Rest-based training
– Tabata

It’s really important to allow sufficient rest after HIIT workouts as they are more physically demanding. I would recommend a days rest between and add extra walking on the rest days for example.

Medium intensity exercise

Notice I haven’t included running, cycling or other forms of aerobic exercise.

This is because medium intensity exercise of more than 30 minutes raises stress hormones without the beneficial growth hormones making it catabolic.

This can often lead to cravings and eating more sugary or refined carbohydrate-based foods later. This creates a vicious cycle of poor blood sugar management, elevated stress levels resulting in disturbed sleep patterns.

Finally sleeping in pitch black and adding in deep belly breathing right before bed will help calm the nervous system and promote sleep. This takes practice and apps can help aid with this. After a while it will become a habit and sleep should start to return to normal.

 Connect with Expert Jill Gardner

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