Doing THIS may help mitigate the harmful effects of sleep deprivation, study suggests

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sleep-deprivation(NaturalHealth365) Chronic sleep deprivation – consistently getting fewer than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye per night for adults – has been linked to everything from cancer to dementia.  The good news is that sleep hygiene strategies like going to bed at the same time every night, sleeping in a cool, pitch dark room, and getting early morning sun exposure can help.

But if no amount of tips and tricks are helping you get some Zzz’s, you might at least want to muster up the energy for a next-day workout: a new study suggests exercise is good for combating the effects of insomnia.

Exercising at least 150 to 300 minutes per week at a moderately intense level may be enough to mitigate poor sleep, observational study finds

The new study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, compiled health data of over 380,000 middle-aged men and women from the UK.  As an observational study, this research cannot prove causality, but the comprehensive data collection (with an average of 11.1 years of follow up) revealed some interesting correlations:

First, certain factors – like not smoking, drinking less alcohol, staying physically active, eating more fruits and veggies, and sitting less – appeared to increase the chances of better sleep.  No real surprise there.

What the researchers did find interesting was a potential “synergistic” effect of poor sleep and exercise.  Specifically:

  • Negative outcomes associated with poor sleep (particularly, death from stroke, heart disease, cancer, and all causes) are made all the worse by low physical activity levels
  • On the other hand, exercising at least as much as the World Health Organization recommends for a minimum weekly amount (150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense exercise) appears to eliminate the detrimental effects of poor sleep

Does this mean you can exercise your way out of bad sleep habits?  No, especially considering that this study was observational and also relied on self-reported data (which can be notoriously faulty).  But it’s a welcome bit of information for anyone frustrated by (and worried about) sleepless nights.

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By the way – all that exercise you’re doing at the gym might not be enough to offset all that sitting (so try these tips to help you get up more)

In an ideal world, we’d all get enough sleep, and we’d all get enough exercise.  But “ideal” might be hard to come by thanks to the sedentary nature of modern life.

In fact, epidemiological research cited in Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports suggests that sitting too much can have negative consequences on your metabolic and cardiovascular health even if you meet the WHO’s recommended physical activity guidelines.

This finding – that sedentary behavior is harmful independently of how much a person exercises – isn’t supported across the board.  And more recently, Mayo Clinic noted that sitting more than 8 hours per day was as risky to your health as obesity and smoking, but that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense exercise could counter these deleterious effects.

What’s our bottom line?  Don’t take a gamble on your health by sitting too much, even if you’re a regular exerciser.  Here are some tips from Mayo Clinic on getting out of your seat more throughout the day:

  • Set an alarm on your phone – or write a reminder on your desk – to get up out of your chair at least once every 30 minutes
  • Challenge yourself to stand up while texting, surfing social media, or watching television commercial breaks
  • Buy an adjustable height standing desk, or create your own using a high table, high countertop, sturdy stack of books, etc.
  • Headed to a meeting with colleagues?  Take it on the road and go for a group walk – or put on some headphones and join the online meeting while walking by yourself

And to really invest in your health, you can even put your work surface over a treadmill using a stand or a specialized treadmill desk.  You’d be amazed at how much more active you’ll be throughout the day (simply start wearing a pedometer if you want proof).

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