words Alexa Wang
The fitness benefits of working out and exercising regularly are well known and discussed often, but the other physical and psychological benefits exercise can bring aren’t discussed enough.
Regular exercise can reduce stress, increase your alertness, help clear and calm the mind and help you sleep better. Getting better quality and more restful sleep has a number of benefits on its own, and by using regular exercise to sleep better, you can make huge improvements to both your health and your wellbeing.
What is the Connection Between Exercise and Sleep?
Studies on sleep have shown that physical activity during the day increases the duration of your sleep, and improves the quality of your rest.
Exercising in the morning and afternoon has also been shown to help you ‘reset’ your sleep-wake cycle, and align yourself with natural circadian rhythms. This has been shown to help shift workers readjust after periods of night work, and to help new parents recover their natural sleeping patterns as their children become toddlers and sleep for longer and do not require night feeding.
It isn’t about exercising before bed, however. If you want to see real results in your sleeping pattern, then you need to exercise throughout the day and give your body a range of different workouts to get the most from your sleep. It is not as hard as it may sound; with just three periods of low-intensity exercise a day for about fifteen minutes each, you can make dramatic changes to the quality and quantity of your rest.
When is the Best Time to go to Sleep?
The best time to get into bed is down to the individual. The demands of your life will greatly influence when you should go to bed on any given day.
It used to be assumed that exercising before bed was a bad habit, as it invigorated the body before rest, but different people’s metabolisms react differently to exercise. Experiment with timing to see what suits your body best. There are other things you can do to help you get better sleep. Removing distractions like televisions and getting a good mattress are two simple things anyone can do to increase the quality and quantity of their rest.
Clutter can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Having a disorganized or messy bedroom can prevent people from feeling restful when they try to sleep, and having work documents or hobby equipment in your bedroom can be an unconscious distraction. Try to clean and tidy your bedroom and make it for one purpose only; sleeping.
Which is the Best Type of Exercise for Sleep?
Some exercises aid sleep better than others. Which exercise works best for you will again depend on your body and metabolism, as well as the timing. This is the kind of regime we recommend experimenting with to find the best balance for you.
In the morning, aerobic or cardio workouts are the best exercise to go for. This doesn’t have to be intense or demanding. Running, cycling, swimming or walking are all great early morning exercises, and they let you mix things up and do something different every day. You can also swim more in winter, and run or cycle more in the summer so you can exercise no matter the weather.
For an afternoon workout, strength training is the way to go. Again, this doesn’t have to be intense or physically demanding. Building muscle through the day has been proven to help the body sleep at night, but this is done with repetition, not through heavy lifting. You can use the weight of your own body for strength training, with push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and chip-ups. Just a little every day will give you what you need for better sleep.
For the evening before bed, practice some yoga. Yoga is great for relaxing, and its breathing exercises will put your body in the mood for sleep. By stretching your muscles, you will relieve any aches and pains from your cardio and strength workouts, and you can clear your mind before you rest to help you fall asleep quicker.
By taking just a few of these steps, you will get better sleep, as well as increase your body’s overall fitness and strength.