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There has always been a debate on how exercise impacts our sleep. People have always wondered if it makes it harder or easier for a person to fall asleep, and the discussion has always shifted towards not exercising before bedtime because it was considered to have adverse effects. However, the answer to this issue is complicated. Exercising is great for your mind and body. For some, it can help have a good night’s sleep, but for others, it does the opposite and interferes with your shut-eye. In most cases, exercising improves your sleep and health.
Many current recommendations are against any evening exercise. However many studies have shown that there are no adverse effects on sleeping caused by exercising before bed. In some cases, it can help you fall asleep faster and have an uninterrupted sleep during the whole night. Of course, vigorous exercise an hour before sleep is not recommended because it can disrupt your sleep quality temporarily.
Any form of exercise during the day and evening can improve your nighttime sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep disorders. Even 10 minutes of walking will have a significant impact on your sleep. Exercising in the morning or afternoon helps reset the sleep-wake cycle, and exercise in the evening helps you fall asleep easier and have more prolonged periods of deep sleep.
How Exercise Aids Sleep
The effects of exercise are very individual. As we mentioned, it can have either a positive or negative impact on your sleep depending on the person. However, most of the times and for the majority of people, it benefits your night routine.
Morning and afternoon exercise slightly raise your body’s temperature to keep you awake, and as the evening comes, the temperature drops and your mind and body trigger sleepiness. If you have a chance to exercise outside, your body can absorb the sunlight and have a better routine, which is very beneficial to your sleep and health as it helps your body get used to doing certain activities at specific times.
Improving sleep quality
Exercise increases the time you spend in deep sleep and contributes to a restful and more sound sleep. Deep sleep helps maintain and even boost your immune function and prevent any cardiac health risk, stress or anxiety. Apart from a deep sleep, exercise also increases your sleep duration. Physical activity can bolster sleep by reducing stress and tiring you out because any kind of activity or training makes you spend energy and feel tired. As the day ends, you will be ready to rest.
Reduce stress and anxiety
As we all know stress is a big problem, if not the biggest, for sleep. It can cause restless sleep or troubles falling asleep. A good way of fighting against this is with exercise. Any amount and type of activity can cause anti-anxiety responses in the body. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is an excellent way to lower your stress levels, handle anxiety and get quality rest.
Insomnia and other sleep disorders
Many studies have shown that exercise can help with different sleep disorders. There is evidence that exercise is great natural therapy for insomnia. Insomnia causes irritability, lack of coordination, focus and concentration, daytime fatigue, depression, anxiety, tension headaches, and of course it prevents you from falling asleep. There is an increase in your body’s temperature when exercising and the fall after it helps you fall asleep. It reduces the symptoms of insomnia by lowering arousal, depressive moments and anxiety. Keeping a healthy exercise routine is very beneficial for those who suffer from insomnia because it maintains a circadian rhythm.
Sleep apnea and exercise have been linked through numerous studies, through the physical improvements that training gives. It amplifies and straightens the airway muscles that will prevent any potential breathing collapse during sleep. Exercise improves your breathing and reduces the severity of sleep apnea.
Sleep and exercise are vital in maintaining health, but people have always struggled with engaging in physical activity without realizing all of its benefits. Sleep deprivation means that a person has less sleep than needed to be awake and alert. Many do not know, but sleep deprivation can impact your health severely, and cause problems such as microsleep. It has been linked to increased metabolism, which is not a good thing. If your metabolism gets a boost, you can have an increase in expenditure energy and body inflammation. Many things can help you overcome this and get your well-deserved sleep, but the best way to fight sleep deprivation is by exercising. Listening to relaxing music or specialized audio recordings can also help. However, when you experience symptoms of sleep deprivation, it is important not to engage in physical activity that will exhaust you too much. Although our bodies can do great things in a sleep-deprived state, you shouldn’t exercise for more than 30 minutes if you are deprived of rest.
What types of exercise are good for sleep?
Doing light exercises, both aerobic and anaerobic, are enough to increase the quality of your sleep. These types of exercise are a good way to stimulate the release of hormones during the night. Different activities such as breathing exercises, meditation techniques, pilates, yoga, light jog, swimming, incline walk, or light Turkish get-ups can help you sleep better at night. Even some minor exercises that involve low-intensity movement can help.
However, aerobic exercise significantly impacts and contributes to your sleep quality. Cardio workouts, running on the treadmill, pedaling or even walking are excellent ways to get your daily dose of exercise. Moderate-intensity aerobic training aids sleep and increases your sleep duration because your body temperature increases with any cardiovascular exercise and the cooling after helps to sleep better. Some research done by the CDC showed that apart from aerobic activities, yoga is also very beneficial for healthy sleep.
Sleep Tips for Fitness Enthusiasts
When exercising, sleep is very important for muscle gain and recovery, as well as for weight loss. Therefore, you should make sure you sleep undisturbed every night and get at least 8 hours of rest.
First of all, it is essential to have a daily plan and try to stick with it. You need to develop a routine for all your daily activities. A continuous routine will balance your hormone production, and as a result, your circadian rhythm will sync with your regular sleep/wake up time. It will shorten the time you need to fall asleep in the evening and make getting up in the morning easier. Exercising close to bedtime can keep you alert and make it harder to fall asleep. Therefore, it is best to avoid working out four or five hours before bed.
To improve your sleep quality, you also need to pick the right mattress model, sheets, pillow, and any additional sleep products that will make you feel extra comfortable. When it comes to picking the right mattress or pillow, apart from focusing on the firmness and thickness preference, make sure your chosen model has proper support and conforming ability, as well as a sleep trial and a warranty. Additionally, you can create improve your sleep by creating your own little sleep sanctuary – set the right temperature, take care of any distractions, minimize noise, etc.
Avoid drinking any liquid. Most of us drink water before bed, so we don’t wake up thirsty during the night, but drinking too much will wake you up to go to the bathroom. In the end, you will get the same result, interrupted sleep and a severe impact on your overall sleep quality. It is best to limit fluid intake close to your bedtime, especially avoid any caffeine intake in the second half of the day, or at least four to six hours before bed. Except for coffee, caffeine can also be found in soda drinks and tea. Along with that, you also need to avoid alcohol and cigarettes before sleep. After alcohol consumption, you feel sleepy and may think that you will sleep better, but alcohol prevents you from transitioning to deep sleep. All of these harm your exercise routine, and they can also impact your sleep. It is also not recommended to eat any heavy meals for less than three hours before sleep. Heavy food can cause you discomfort because of the bowel movement that will keep you up. In case you get hungry before bedtime, a light snack will not disturb your sleep.
Taking naps during the day is also not a good idea. In most cases, they can refresh you a bit if you are very tired, but falling asleep at night may be harder. To have a good night of sleep, it would be best to avoid any forms of naps during the day, or at least limit them to thirty minutes.
There is no right amount of exercise to do, it’s all individual. However, it is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of activity during the week, which equals to 30 minutes for five out of seven days. The key is to create an exercising routine. Also, don’t overdo it as too much exercise can cause sleep problems.
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Iva is an art historian and an art lover who always had a passion for writing and sleep! When she is not researching and testing new mattresses on the market, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, eating tons of junk food or playing with her dog Bart.