The quality of your sleep affects your workouts. And your workouts affect your sleep. At the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Herb Perez, a member of the United States Taekwondo Team, was preparing for his debut in the Olympics. Herb confided he could not fall asleep the night before his matches. As a sport psychologist for the medical team, I suggested Herb not worry how well he sleep the night before his bout. What mattered was the quality of sleep the months-of-nights before his event. Herb went on to win a Gold Medal in the Olympic Games.

Forty million Americans have some sort of sleep problem. One in three have difficulty falling asleep. Americans today sleep an average of 90 minutes less than they did a century ago. Alertness and visual skills may be impaired by minor sleep loss. But chronic sleep deprivation reduces your vigilance, mental abilities, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity. Insomnia affects your ability to handle stress and solve problems. Lack of sleep can hinder your job performance. Not to mention the sleep-deprivation related disasters including Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez. And how many accidents have you heard about where people have dozed at the wheel of their automobiles?

Maybe Jay Leno only needs 3 hours of sleep. And perhaps you need 10. A report in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that sleeping less than 5 hours, or more than 10 hours increased mortality risk. The lowest death rates were reported in those who slept 7 hours a night. Sleeping aids and pills may be habit forming. Ironically, these products don't necessarily improve deep sleep.

Similar to alcohol, they allow you to become drowsy, but some may actually impede quality sleep.

Exercise helps you fall asleep quicker and improve the quality of your deep sleep. Try exercising during the day. Keep it moderate. Too much exercise, or working out just before bedtime may be counterproductive. Late afternoon activity seems to be the best time to enhance your sleep. AQUAJOGGING is particularly helpful for falling asleep according to anecdotal reports.

In a recent study at the Sleep Laboratory at the University of Washington, exercisers not only improved their aerobic fitness by 13 percent, they extended their deep sleep capabilities by 33 percent. Exercise especially improves sleep for those with low fitness levels and older adults.

Regardless of whether the exercise benefits sleep because of increased fatigue, elevated body temperature, or decreased stress, it works!


1. Eat a snack before bedtime. Keep it light. High fat foods require a longer period to digest. A bowl of fiber cereal or half a tuna sandwich works for me.

2. Establish a step-by-step routine. Include a bath and a boring sitcom. Read a dull novel.

3. To catch up on sleep go to bed an hour early. Wake up at your normal time, even on weekends.

4. Your mattress should be firm, not hard. Shut your door, turn your telephone off, turn on your answer machine, close your eyes, and sleep.