There are plenty of reasons to commit to regular exercise. It can improve your health, mood and overall well being. On top of that, it can improve your sleep. People who regularly workout drift off to sleep faster and wake up less during the night. And all this results in better quality of sleep and waking up feeling more energized and refreshed. But what is the best exercise for sleep? There’s no one perfect exercise that will improve your sleep but some do give better results than others.
How Exercise May Improve Your Sleep?
Scientists can’t yet fully pinpoint the mechanisms how physical activity leads to better sleep. However, what is known is that moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the amount of slow wave sleep a person gets. The slow wave sleep is the deepest stage of the sleep, where the brain and body get the chance to rejuvenate. This translates to better recovery of the body and gives you more physical and mental energy for the next day.
Exercise has also been proven to improve mood and bring stress relief. It’s easier for a calmer and happier mind to fall asleep than for a stressed one.
Without a doubt, cardio or aerobic exercise promotes better sleep. This includes any activity that gets your heart rate up. You can do vigorous intensity exercise, such as running in the park, pedalling on a bike, doing a HIIT workout, swimming or brisk walking. You can also do moderate-intensity exercise, which is just as beneficial for sleep. Even just regularly doing a 10-minute walk will help to improve your sleep. It can increase the sleep duration and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.
The goal is to get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise each week. It’s best to include both moderate and vigorous exercise.
When you do aerobic exercise, your body temperature rises and when you cool down after the exercise, your temperature drops again and that helps you fall asleep.
Strength training helps build stronger muscles, improved bone health and sculpted limbs. As it turns out, it’s also a great solution for better sleep. All those squats, bicep curls, shoulders presses, and other strength training exercises, can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently.
This may be due to the fact that resistance training warms up the body and so it has a sort of pre-bed bath effect.
Pretty much any yoga movement will also help to lull you into sleep. Just skip the inversion movements, where you have to stay with your head upside-down, and moves that stress your groin.
If you’re doing yoga before bedtime, also choose poses that aren’t too difficult. You don’t want to stress your body. Instead, you want to do smooth movements that would lull you into a state of drowsiness.
The simple relaxing poses and stretching brings physical relief for the body, while the accompanying breathing relaxes your body. This leads to improved overall relaxation, as well as improvement in sleep quality and duration.
The same as with yoga, stretches release the pressure from the most-stressed joints. Focus especially on the back and the hips. These are the most worse-for-wear areas.
If you want to do a workout right before bedtime, it’s better to skip active exercises and instead do something more relaxing and soothing for the mind. Deep-breathing exercises relax your mind, distract from all the worries of the past day, and lull into calm state of mind.
You can do it lying down in bed or sitting upright. If you’re doing it seated, make sure that you keep your spine straight and your trunk grounded. Relax your mind and just concentrate on the breathing, making deep, slow, sustained breaths.
When to Exercise?
You may have heard that working out before bedtime will make it difficult for you to fall asleep. There are two reasons explaining this. First of all, exercise increases your body temperature. It’s kind of like taking a hot shower in the morning in order to wake yourself up. The rise in temperature signals the body’s internal clock that it’s time to wake up. However, after some time the core body temperature starts to drop and this facilitates sleepiness.
Secondly, physical activity releases endorphins in the body. These feel-good chemicals can overstimulate the brain and keep the person from falling asleep.
However, despite these biological responses to exercise, for some people it doesn’t make a difference. They work out in the morning or close bedtime and still have good sleep afterward. So, it’s down to your personal preference. Just listen to your body and adjust your workout schedule accordingly.
If you’re suffering from insomnia, there’s no denying that regular exercise will help you improve the quality of sleep. Even with just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, you can see a difference in sleep quality. And it won’t take months or years for you to see results. If you’re sticking to a regular workout schedule, you’ll feel results within days. Just be mindful of timing for the exercise and choose the optimal time that works for you.