Struggling with Insomnia? Here’s How to Combat Insomnia with Fitness

As many as 24 percent of teenagers struggle with insomnia. Having sleep problems as a teenager can be hard. You have to wake up early for school and sit through classes, but learning is forced to take a back seat when you can barely stay awake. So what’s the solution?
Part of the solution is being physically active. Adolescents are more sedentary than ever, opting for social media scrolling and video game playing, rather than playing sports and being physically active. We can’t blame them; that’s how the world has turned, particularly in light of the pandemic. Numerous studies have found that the sharp decline in physical activity among adolescents during the pandemic has had knock-on effects for their mental health, social development, and educational performance.
So, if you’re a teen struggling with insomnia, here are some tips to help you sleep soundly once and for all.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. We all struggle to fall asleep here and there, but if it’s a nightly occurrence, you may have insomnia.
As mentioned, just under 24 percent of teenagers have insomnia, preventing them from having a consistent sleep schedule. Insomnia can cause difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling into a deep sleep.
We all have an innate circadian rhythm – this is the body’s biological clock. It aligns with our endocrine system, which is the body’s hormonal system. Hormones are our body’s chemical messengers, and they’re responsible for producing melatonin – the hormone that makes you sleepy.
When melatonin isn’t produced in the evening when it needs to be, you’ll feel wide awake, even if it’s bedtime! This is a sign that your circadian rhythm has been disrupted.
So, what disrupts the circadian rhythm? How can fixing this improve insomnia in teens?

Why is Sleep Important for Adolescents?

Teens with insomnia are more likely to experience:
  • A decline in academic performance
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders
  • Emotional problems and mood dysregulation
  • A decline in physical health
  • An increased risk of car accidents
  • A desire to engage in high-risk behaviors
  • Interpersonal issues with peers
  • A weakened immune system
This happens because sleep is important! In fact, teenagers need more sleep than adults, because their brains and bodies are still developing, which requires a lot of energy. The average adolescent needs around nine hours of sleep per night, but the average amount of sleep they get is around seven hours.

How to Use Exercise to Combat Teen Insomnia

Physical activity is vital for mental and physical health, well-being, and performance. Increasing the amount, you exercise will make you happier and healthier, plus, you’ll sleep better! It’s a win-win!
Studies have found that moderate-to-vigorous exercise improves sleep quality by reducing the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Oftentimes, struggling to fall asleep is what triggers the insomniac behavior by making you feel stressed and anxious. Stress and anxiety are one of the most common causes of insomnia in teenagers – but not the only – other causes include:
  • Excess caffeine
  • Screen Time
  • Social commitments
  • Waking up early for school
  • Rapid body changes caused by puberty and hormones
With that being said, here are some fitness tips to help teens improve their sleeping problems.
1. Exercise DAILY
It’s not enough to exercise once or twice a week. Exercise needs to be part of your daily routine. According to the CDC, children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. But a shocking 75 percent of teens aren’t getting this.
The more you exercise, the healthier you get, which in turn, affects your sleep, which leads us to the next point.
2. Check your weight
Obesity is closely related to insomnia. Unfortunately, many teens are currently struggling with their weight. 19.7 percent of teens, which equates to 14.7 million, meet the criteria for obesity. Obesity disturbs the circadian rhythm and dysregulates hormones, which causes sleep quality to deteriorate.
Exercise can help you lose weight, which will help you combat insomnia.
3. Do HIIT
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that involves switching between high-intensity exercise and brief rest periods. During the periods of high-output exercise, you’ll be working as hard as possible to get your heart rate up. This is very challenging to maintain, so you only want to do it for a minute maximum. After this minute, you’ll have a quick rest period of anywhere between 10 seconds to a minute, depending on your fitness levels.
HIIT is a powerful sleep inducer. It has been shown in research to improve sleep quality in adults, which indicates a similar result in adolescents. This can happen for a few reasons:
  • HIIT alleviates stress and anxiety
  • It releases pent-up energy
  • It can reverse the effects of too much caffeine
  • It fatigues your body physically, making it ready for sleep
  • It can balance your hormones
4. Go for an evening walk
Grab a friend or family member and go for an evening stroll just as the sun is beginning to set. This is one of the most effective ways to signal to your brain that the day is drawing to a close and bedtime is nearing. Why? Because your eyes are perceiving the dimming of daylight.
5. Try Yoga
Yoga can help to alleviate stress and get your body ready for sleep. Yoga is a form of gentle exercise that aligns the breath with the movements of the body. Yoga is not an intensive form of exercise, so can be done after a workout like HIIT, or just before bed. You can find a million yoga tutorials on YouTube to guide your practice.

Final Words of Advice

Part of the treatment for teen insomnia is exercise. Staying physically active is great for stress reduction and rebalancing your body during periods of rapid change.
Aside from physical activity, getting off your phone and computer at least an hour before bed will help the natural melatonin release that allows you to drift off soundly.
Being a teen can be hard. That’s why you’ve got to take care of yourself, and that starts with sleep.
We hope this article helped you!
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