Exercise's Sleep Benefits
A third of Americans1 do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. Adults, particularly those with chronic diseases, have been shown to benefit from daytime exercise in terms of sleep efficiency and duration. Sluggishness and physical inactivity the next day have been linked to not getting enough sleep, implying a bidirectional relationship between sleep and exercise.
While regular physical activity has numerous benefits for your overall health and well-being, when planning exercise for sleep, intensity and timing are crucial. Vigorous exercise is not recommended within three hours3 of bedtime, according to current guidelines. On both a physical and mental level, exercise has an impact on sleep. To design an effective exercise routine, you must first understand this complex relationship.
The Body is Exhausted by Exercise
Exercise and other physically demanding activities increase the natural pressure to sleep4 that builds throughout the day. While you're awake, this pressure, also known as the homeostatic sleep drive, rises. Sleeping resets your sleep drive, which starts over the next day when you wake up.
Although a physically demanding job8 can speed up the sleep drive, exercise is thought to improve sleep quality. This is because people who work in jobs that require a lot of physical exertion frequently suffer from musculoskeletal pain, which can make sleeping difficult.
Exercise Makes It Easier to Fall Asleep
Many people, especially those who suffer from insomnia, suffer from pre-sleep anxiety. Anxiety about sleep can cause people to associate their bed with stress and worry over time, which can exacerbate their anxiety. Exercise can help with anxiety symptoms in biological and psychological ways. Physical activity distracts people from anxiety-inducing thoughts or feelings, as well as triggering stress-inhibiting brain processes.
Circadian Rhythms are Reinforced by Outdoor Exercise
Bright light can help regulate the body's internal body clock and promote sleep at night, especially in the morning. According to some research, exercising outside in the morning can help to reinforce these natural rhythms. Because circadian rhythms can weaken with age, this benefit may be especially beneficial for older adults.
The circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by natural light. Daylight entering your eyes sends signals to your circadian clock, causing the production of alerting hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. When the sun sets in the evening, your body produces melatonin, a hormone that promotes feelings of sleepiness and relaxation, which signals the circadian clock. People who have trouble sleeping benefit from exposure to natural light while they are awake, so exercising outside during the day can help with sleep in two ways.
What is the best type of exercise for sleeping?
Cardiovascular Exercise & Aerobic Exercise increases blood flow and raises your heart rate. It can also lower blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease. Aerobic exercise has been shown to be especially beneficial for people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders. Total sleep time, ability to sleep through the night, and overall sleep quality can all benefit from this type of exercise. It can also help people with insomnia fall asleep more quickly, prompting some researchers to suggest aerobic exercise as a treatment for insomnia.
Exercise that ranges from moderate to high intensity has been shown to reduce anxiety for several hours. A single session of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise significantly reduced anxiety in people with insomnia, according to one study. This type of exercise also reduced the time it took them to fall asleep by half while increasing their overall sleep time.
Aerobic exercise isn't the only kind of exercise that can help you sleep better. If running isn't your thing, resistance training such as lifting weights and other forms of resistance training can provide similar results. Any type of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) has been linked to better sleep quality in studies.
Resistance training is an exercise in which your muscles are forced to work against a weight or force. The following are some examples of this type of exercise:
- Performing weightlifting
- Making use of resistance bands
- Pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises
When Is the Best Time to Exercise to Get a Good Night's Sleep?
Because everyone reacts to exercise differently, there is no "one-size-fits-all" routine that will guarantee better sleep. However, studies have shown that aerobic exercise in the morning can help you fall asleep faster, improve the quality of your sleep, and reduce the amount of time you spend awake at night, compared to aerobic exercise in the afternoon or evening. Evening light exercise, such as stretching or yoga, can help you relax before bed without overexerting your body.
It's best to exercise first thing in the morning to get a good night's sleep.
Morning exercise has an effect on your heart rate, but not as much as evening exercise. A rise in very low frequency, low frequency, and high frequency heart rate activity has been linked to morning exercise. During sleep, this balance promotes parasympathetic activity in the central nervous system, which is linked to feelings of calm and relaxation.
The increase in heart rate that occurs after evening exercise, on the other hand, is thought to increase sympathetic activity, which is linked to stress and feelings of "fight or flight." Researchers believe that exercising earlier in the day allows the body to relax and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to take over, allowing one to sleep better. As a result, compared to evening exercise, morning exercise is thought to produce more restful sleep.
Exercise at night can reduce REM sleep.
Physiological changes that occur after nighttime exercise have been observed by researchers. A spike in body temperature is one of these changes, which can disrupt the natural decline in core temperature that occurs as part of the 24-hour circadian cycle. Evening exercise can increase heart rate, and studies have shown that people who exercise at night have less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. People who exercise in the morning have not shown these changes as consistently.
Exercise at night may be the most convenient option for you, depending on your daily schedule. While some people may benefit from light exercise before bed, most experts agree that vigorous physical activity makes it more difficult to fall asleep, shortens total sleep time, and reduces sleep efficiency.
This isn't to say that all late-night exercise is bad or unhealthy. Resistance exercise improved sleep in healthy college-aged people whether they worked out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, according to a study. Those who exercised in the morning fell asleep faster, but those who exercised in the evening slept better and awoke less frequently during the night.
When Should You Do High-Intensity Workouts?
The majority of exercises are classified as moderate or high-intensity. After only a few words, you'll need to pause for a breath22 when doing high-intensity – also known as vigorous-intensity – exercises. Running or jogging, lap swimming, cycling at least 10 miles, or uphill hiking are all examples of high-intensity exercise.
Prior to bedtime, high-intensity exercise has been shown to raise heart rate and delay sleep onset23, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Before going to bed, a group of physically fit men did either a moderate- or a high-intensity workout. When compared to those who did a moderate-intensity workout, those who did the latter had a higher heart rate and took 14 minutes longer to fall asleep.
Intense exercise, on the other hand, has been shown in some studies to help people sleep more deeply. Those who felt they had worked out harder had more restorative deep sleep than those who felt they had worked out less when a group of physically active adults exercised 90 minutes before bed. They also fell asleep faster, awoke less during the night, and stayed awake in bed for less time.
Chronotype, which refers to biological dispositions for sleeping earlier or later in the day, may influence the best time to engage in high-intensity exercise. Morning people, also known as "larks," rise and sleep earlier in the day, whereas evening people, also known as "owls," rise and sleep later. According to one study, chronotypes can have a significant impact on athletic performance at various times of the day and night, suggesting that people should consider timing their high-intensity workouts based on whether they are a morning or evening person.
Tips for Getting a Better Night's Sleep
Regular exercise is an important part of good sleep hygiene27. Sleep hygiene refers to a set of behavioral and environmental strategies for promoting regular, healthy sleep. It was originally conceived as a possible treatment for insomnia. Aspects of sleep hygiene that are also important include:
- 30 minutes of moderate exercise: Make your health and sleep a priority by committing to 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. It could be as simple as going for a walk with your dog or doing sun salutations when you wake up. You don't have to overdo it; while longer and more intense workouts will improve your physical health, 30 minutes of activity will help you sleep better.
- Experiment with the following to see what works best for you: Working out first thing in the morning isn't for everyone. Experiment with different routines until you find one that works for you. Finding a time and a routine that works for you is essential.
- For more intense workouts, get enough sleep: Sleep and exercise have a bidirectional relationship. While exercise can aid sleep, getting enough sleep can benefit your workouts as well. After a good night's sleep, you'll be more motivated to get up and go to the gym.
- Try a fitness tracker: Fitness trackers are great for keeping track of workouts and staying motivated, but most also include detailed sleep data. Having this information at your fingertips can assist you in determining which routine best suits your needs. It can also provide you with useful information about your sleep cycle, which you can use to improve your workouts and overall health.