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How does exercise affect insomnia?

Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
The famous Taoist physician Ge Hong, who lived during the Han dynasty in the third century, promoted this set of exercises as prevention and treatment of insomnia. Chinese studies indicate that these moves effectively improved the sleep quality of chronic insomniacs when practiced nightly for two to four weeks.
  1. Lie on your back with bent knees. Pull your knees toward your chest and breathe naturally. Hold this position for one minute, then relax, straighten your legs, and rest your arms at your sides.
  2. Remain on your back, inhale, and stretch both arms up overhead. Exhale, bring your hands down, and massage your body from your chest to your abdomen. Then rest your hands at your sides. Repeat with every breath for one minute.
  3. On your back, make loose fists with both hands. Place them under your back toward the shoulder blades, one fist on either side of your spine. Take three complete breaths, then reposition your fists downward one notch and repeat, moving downward every third breath until your fists are at waist level. Take five breaths here. Now put your fists on either side of the tailbone and take five more breaths.
  4. Lie face down with your hands under your abdomen. Inhale, filling your abdomen and chest, and feel the energy permeate your whole body. Exhale and visualize negativity leaving your body. Pause after each exhalation and relax every muscle. Do this for one minute.
Individuals who exercise frequently do not often suffer from insomnia since exercise often induces sleep naturally. However, since exercise tends to increase heart and brain activity, you should try not to exercise within 5 hours of going to bed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.