You’d think that being bed-bound due to injury, chronic illness, or age would mean more sleep. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case. From unpleasant symptoms to restlessness, there are a ton of factors that can undermine both your sleep quality and your mental well-being.
But aside from taking medication like sleeping pills, what can you do about it?
You may have heard that exercise can help, relaxing both your body and mind and allowing you to burn off excess energy. You may have heard meditation is the key, helping you gain greater mental discipline and cut down on intrusive thoughts. You might have even heard someone sing the praises of yoga, and how it can improve your overall quality of life.
But do any of these arguments hold water?
In a paper by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a branch of the United States National Library of Medicine found that 29 of 34 studies on the relationship between sleep and exercise concluded that it improved either sleep duration, sleep quality, or both. It’s worth noting, however, that 4 of those studies found that it had no impact, while 1 actually concluded that exercise had a negative effect. Still, even in spite of these outliers, the conclusion seems clear — there’s a good chance that exercising will help you sleep better at night.
The general consensus of the studies appears to be threefold.
- Exercising at least an hour and a half before bed may increase both deep sleep and REM sleep.
- Consistency is important, as regular exercise has a far greater impact on sleep than the occasional workout.
- Regular exercise increases both sleep efficiency and total sleep time.
It’s important to keep in mind here that moderation is key, and that overdoing it can result in serious injury. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple exercises you can do directly from your home hospital bed. We’d still strongly advise consulting a physiotherapist before attempting them, however.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a federal healthcare research agency and part of the National Institutes of Health, 55 percent of people aged 18 or older who practiced yoga reported improvements in overall sleep quality. Another study published in 2013 by NCBI found that two 75-minute yoga sessions per week helped cancer survivors suffering from impaired sleep quality throughout the treatment process. It makes a great deal of sense if you stop to think about it.
Yoga, at its core, is all about relaxation. It’s about calming your nerves, working out tension in the muscles, and providing some much-needed light exercise. Because it’s generally so low-impact, it’s also a great option for anyone who’s bed-bound.
If you’re curious about what sort of exercises might be a good fit for you, check out the Accessible Yoga Blog, which is dedicated to providing yoga teachings and exercises to seniors as well as individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities. We’ve also published a piece detailing a few stretches you can do while bed-bound.
As reported by The Harvard Health Blog, mindfulness meditation has been linked to improved sleep. In 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a study involving two groups of middle-aged adults. One group practiced mindfulness meditation, the other was coached on how to improve their sleep hygiene. At the end of the trial, which was conducted over the course of six weeks, the former group reported a greater reduction in insomnia, depression, and fatigue.
Again, as with yoga, meditation’s impact on sleep does make a great deal of sense. The brain is our control center, responsible for everything from autonomous bodily functions to emotion and higher thought. If that control center in some way goes haywire, it can have a pronounced and negative effect not just on our sleep quality but on our overall health.
For instance, as noted by online health publication Web MD severe stress often manifests in physical symptoms. These vary by person but may include changes in blood pressure, a lowered immune system, chest pain, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, and even insomnia. If one finds a means of reducing stress — such as, for instance, through meditation — it naturally follows that one’s sleep quality would improve, as well.
Exercise, meditation, and yoga can all improve both sleep quality and overall quality of life. That said, it’s important to remember that you need to find the right combination that works for you. Otherwise, you aren’t likely to see much improvement at all.