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Why Walking During the Day Helps You Rest at Night

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Sitting all day at a desk not only has consequences for your overall health and wellbeing, but also for your sleep health. Here's how the simple act of walking more during the day can help you get more quality sleep.


Since Jack, 32, took on a new role as COO at a large company, his days have been filled with juggling a variety of new responsibilities and tasks. He and his wife also got a puppy just a few months into his new job.


As anyone with a dog can confirm, training a puppy can be just as exhausting as caring for a baby. Still, the one thing that keeps Jack sane during this stressful time is taking his dog for a walk in the park.


“I always look forward to our walks. Getting up from my desk regularly and taking a short break in nature keeps me focused," Jack says.


Go For a Walk For Better Sleep

It could be the slogan for an entire generation: "Sitting is the new smoking."


Many people are tied to their desks, even though human bodies crave movement. As hunter-gatherers, humans simply aren't built to sit all day. But desk-job workers often don't have a healthy work/life balance and instead just push through it. After work, you might head home and snooze away in front of the TV. Or maybe you prefer to have a drink or two just to fall asleep at all. When you're stressed and pressed for time, it's common to toss and turn at night instead of getting a good night's sleep.


As soon as things get stressful, the first ball to drop is often exercise. Who has time — and energy — to go for a run or hit the gym when you can barely manage without coffee?


But there is good news: It doesn't have to be strenuous types of exercise. Even light physical activity like walking helps your body fall asleep easier — and is one of the solutions for how to sleep better, according to researchers.


Consider walking more for your health: After all, a good night's rest is crucial for health and wellbeing — and vice versa.


The Many Benefits of Walking for Better Sleep

Walking has many benefits, all of which contribute to better sleep. In addition to the actual health benefits that come from the exercise itself, such as improving heart rate as well as blood pressure and strengthening muscles, there are others that contribute to better sleep:


  • Spending time in green spaces contributes to the relaxation of our mind by reducing physiological stress, according to a study.


  • Breathing fresh air is good for body and soul.


Even Short Walks Do Wonders for Your Sleep and Mental Health

If you want to make a resolution to walk more during the day, start by being realistic. If you've always driven to work and gotten used to taking the elevator, it's not a change that happens overnight.


The first step is to think about how to incorporate more steps into your day. Some people may want to buy a smartwatch to track their steps. But it doesn't have to be a one-hour midday walk every day. One study showed that just a 12-minute walk is enough to get all the benefits of walking. That can be a walk from one subway station to the next — every little step counts.


Walking more gives your brain a short and much-needed break from all the distractions of modern life. This so-called deep rest can contribute to creative breakthroughs. Who hasn't been stuck at a desk, only to take a deep breath, walk around the block and suddenly come back with an idea?


Walking, as our most natural form of exercise, lifts our mood and is therefore excellent for our mental health — which in turn contributes to a good night's sleep. Being more creative is an added bonus.


Create a Daily Walking Routine

Establishing a walking routine can go a long way toward improving self-care. You don't have to get a dog. Although that's often one of the reasons for getting one — to force people outside, even if it's raining or snowing and you just want to spend the Sunday on the couch.

Either way, research shows that walking must be done daily to have the greatest effect:A study published in Sport Sciences for Health examined the effects of daily walking and found that both the sleep quality and duration improved significantly. So here are some suggestions:

  • Set yourself a reminder. It's easy to get caught up in the tasks and responsibilities of the workday. One way to get up and move more is to set yourself a reminder. This can be once a day for your lunch break or every few hours for a few short minutes of movement.

  • Turn off devices. No phone calls, no voice messages, no podcasts. Use this time to be really still while you walk and be with your own thoughts — to see what comes up and get the most benefit from your walk.

  • Involve others. To add variety from time to time and not get tired of your new routine yet, it can also be a good idea to meet up with friends for a walk or move a meeting outside. Who says you can only discuss something in a stuffy conference room? Especially when brainstorming, a walk together can do wonders. You can talk more freely and come up with creative ideas.

  • Cultivate mindfulness. One of the best sleeping tips: Notice your surroundings and check in with yourself. Mindfulness is a great tool to make everyday life easier. Have you noticed the first golden leaves on the trees? The first chestnuts on the path? When we're outdoors more, we notice the changes in the seasons better. A mindful approach to daily life helps us cope with the craziness of our world. And so we can also sleep better when we are at peace with ourselves.


Try incorporating daily walks — even short ones — into your routine, and keep track of your sleep quality and quantity. The fresh air and light exercise is bound to improve both.


Don't Forget to Evaluate Your Mattress

Make sure a poor mattress isn't robbing you of your sleep, too. Sleepers who routinely use their Sleep Number 360® smart bed technology can get 28 minutes more restful sleep per night — that's up to 170 hours per year!*


Take it from Jack, who now takes only a few minutes to fall asleep each night: "I've never walked as much in the day as I do now. I have to, several times a day. But I feel like it helps me cope with the stress."


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal wellbeing and performance. Because everyone's sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® smart beds sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep.


*Based on average SleepIQ® data from 8/1/21 – 2/28/22 of sleepers who engaged with their Sleep Number® setting, SleepIQ® data and FlexFit™ smart adjustable base. 

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