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Getting in to the Zone of Sound Sleep

Posted Mar 03 2009 2:02pm
Portrait of a young woman asleep in a white bed

Like most commodities, sleep hasn’t exactly been at a premium amidst an unstable market. But one welcome change come last Saturday night has been an extra hour to sleep in– or so it seems.

While daylight time (pushing the clock back an hour) traditionally runs from the last Sunday in October to the 1st Sunday in April, one indication of rising fuel costs was the decision to delay this change to the 1st Sunday in November.

With daylight time now running until the end of March (rather than the beginning of April), this effectively means a month less time to catch up on your sleep. While an hour here and there may not sound like much, the time change bears a significant change

on the body’s internal clock.

Also known as the circadian rhythm, your body’s timer regulates every action from when you are most awake to hormone production. When it comes to sleep, it can take the body up to four weeks to develop a new sleep cycle in response to changes in activity.

With this in mind, the opportunity exists during this “spring back” period to prime the body to respond more efficiently to cues it is time to sleep. While this column will deal primarily with the affects of exercise on sleep, the most common misconception I have

come across on this topic is that hot tea and other supplements which warm the body act as sleep aids.

By contrast, studies have shown the best way to induce “deep sleep” is to induce lower body temperatures. This means drinking colder or chilled beverages and timing a hot shower around 1-2 hours before sleep.

Getting in the zone:

Beyond these recommendations, one of the best strategies to lower body temperature is engage in aerobic exercise around 4-5 hours before sleep. Findings from a recent Stanford Medical School study found that with a moderate intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night.

Because higher heart rates require more time and effort by the body to return to normal, the trick to this program is boosting heart rate just enough to get in to the “aerobic” zone without dramatically elevating the body’s need for recovery.

This can be done by including brief surges of intensity to spike the heart rate followed by longer periods of slower, long form exercise. In order to do so, included below is a “sound sleep” program which should be performed 4-5 hours before bed.

By performing this program three times per week during daylight time, the body will become more efficient in inducing sleep patterns in prep for the seasonal change. Added to your current exercise routine, an additional dose of aerobics also aids in muscular recovery while burning fat before bed.


  • Perform anaerobic activity for thirty seconds every 10-15 minutes
  • Perform prone marching for 15 to 20 minutes or until heart rate
  • falls under 60% of Maximum (Max HR can be calculated by subtracting
  • age from 220.

Day #1/3:

Anaerobic activity: Squat thrusts

Aerobic activity: Prone Marching

Day #2/4:

Anaerobic activity: Stability ball slams

Aerobic activity: Stability ball chops

Thanks Chris for this wonderful post! You can read more from Chris at his blog:

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