Whenever people ask me about my sleep routine, the very first thing I say is: Get some steps in. For me that means a 45- to 60-minute walk between dinner and bed. I will listen to Jeff Walker’s monthly music selections as I trot about, checking out the sidewalk social scene in my increasingly bustling neighborhood.
True, some nights I will give in to the sofa and a 3-episode binge of Law and Order, SVU, but I will not sleep as well. If I do my vigorous nighttime tour of the area, I will sleep straight through 8 hours. Love that.
Walking Is a De-Stressor
The NYT just came out with an article about how walking influences sleep. Call this confirmation of my own sleep hygiene routine. As they point out, intense exercise near bedtime is not such a great idea. It is wonderful earlier in the day for a whole host of reasons, but it’s very premise — stress the body — is not what one wants before sleeping. Conversely, walking is a de-stressor. It helps the body recover gently from whatever physical and mental stress may have accumulated during the day.
Good Sleep for Good Health
The NYT piece talks about using 7,000 steps as a good benchmark, which is similar to what I have found. For my evening walk, I will do 4500-6500 steps, and combined with my day activity will get me to around 8000 to 10000 steps. This is not really for exercise benefits — I do plenty of HIIT, weight lifting and other activities for that. This is about making sure I get one of the most important health benefits we have control over: the amount and quality of sleep.
I place a huge premium on getting good sleep. My life is very hectic, there is a ton going on, and with travel and exercise routines added on top, I really need sound sleep or my health will collapse. I have learned this the hard way, and these days I cannot afford to be laid up in bed recovering from an illness when there is so much to do.
Bonus: Staying Svelte
We like to say that any activity is better than no activity. But smart activity, well-timed, is the best solution. And who wants to be tossing and turning in the night? Not me. Added bonus: walking off dinner keeps one svelte.