Police Training

July 03, 2013

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Don't let an old myth rob you of good sleep

Submitted by:
Chuck Remsberg, PoliceOne Columnist

Are you avoiding vigorous exercise shortly before you go to bed because you think it will interfere with a good night’s sleep?

If so, you’re falling victim to a persistent myth that experts say is based on “conjecture and anecdote” and has “never been validated.”

In fact, a recent report from the National Sleep Foundation says that people who exercise at any time of day tend to sleep better and feel more rested than those who don’t exercise at all. And if you exercise in the last four hours before bedtime, the Foundation says, you’ll likely sleep just as well as someone exercising earlier in the day.

With cops being a group that’s notorious for suffering poor sleep, it’s important to realize the value that exercise can bring to your rest period.

According to the Foundation, three-fourths of people who exercise rate their sleep as very good or fairly good, compared to about half of those who are non-exercisers. Among vigorous exercisers, 83 percent report sleeping well and notice a decline in quality when they don’t get in sufficient movement during their day.

Exercising before bedtime has gotten a bad rap on the theory that the physical stimulation, combined with an increase in body temperature, tends to keep you awake. But modern studies debunk that. 

In one experiment at the University of South Carolina, for example, researchers had healthy men ride stationary bikes for three hours and then go to bed just 30 minutes later. They slept soundly.

The option of late-in-the day exercise can open up new horizons for many people, scientists say. “If you’re inactive, just adding a 10-minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Max Hirshkowitz, who led the Foundation’s recent survey. 

“Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities could help you sleep better.”

And that becomes a critical officer-safety issue when you consider the extent to which poor sleep contributes to fatigue and a potentially dangerous lack of alertness.





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