Is exercise really helpful for getting a good nights rest? Do different workouts effect you differently? Will working out at night ruin my sleep? Overall if you want higher energy levels throughout the day and to sleep better at night, you should exercise more. At least that is what they say. But is it true? There are many benefits to regular exercise but in this article we will look into whether or not exercise can help you sleep. Continue reading to get the answers to all of these questions and more.
Sleep Quality Improved by Exercise:
If you are struggling to sleep at night and stay awake during the day, you should definitely consider adding a workout to your daily routine. If you are already working out a couple days a week you may even want to add more. When it comes to your sleep and health you are always moving in one direction or the other. You get to decide if you are moving in a healthy direction or not.
Poor Health = Poor Sleep Cycle
When your sleep schedule is on the fritz, exercise is one of the best tools you can use to get it moving back in the right direction. If you are moving in the wrong direction by eating poorly and not working out then you are in for some trouble. This is because as your health declines overall, it will make more difficult to fall asleep, and make it harder to stay awake during the day.
This poor health cycle will lead to exhaustion. Which then further declines your quality of health and so on and so forth. It can easily become a downward cycle that can really wreck your quality of life.
Good Health = Good Sleep Cycle
The great news is that exercise and diet can quickly create changes and even reverse the cycle. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals like endorphins and epinephrine (adrenaline). These chemicals wake you up and make you feel good.
So if you workout in the morning it can put an extra pep in your step. It also raises your internal body temperature which can help you shake off any extra sleepiness that might be sticking around in the body. These effects are like a cup of coffee, they take an immediate effect but don’t do too much for the long haul.
It is the health benefits of working out continuously that make the long lasting changes to your health and sleep habits. When you work out on a regular basis (along with a healthy diet) you will loose weight, gain muscle, and increase your overall stamina. These changes are what will help you stay awake throughout the day and get better sleep at night.
When you are getting great sleep it will improve your health, and that is when the Good Health = Good Sleep cycle comes round full circle.
When should I be exercising?
While exercising in the morning can give you a boost in energy and confidence. Waking up at 5am to go for a run or hit them gym is not for everyone.
There are plenty of people out there that would prefer an evening trip to the gym. Or you may like to practice your yoga after dinner. If you are a night owl, you may have heard that exercise at night is bad for you. It seems a rumor is going around that working out at night could be ruining your sleep.
While on paper this seems to make sense with all of the talk about how working out releases endorphins, heats up the body. Howe it simply isn’t true. That is as long as you are not planning to jump into bed immediately after a jazzercise class. The truth is you’re still going to get the same quality of sleep. It is all dependent on giving your body enough time to cool down.
Stuart Quan, MD, is the Gerald E. McGinnis professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. He suggests that you only need a couple of hours of recovery before you plan to go to sleep. This allows your body temperature to cool back down. So according to that, you can absolutely workout after work and dinner and still get to bed at your normal time.
If you are planning to workout at night we have one more thing to keep in mind. Skip the pre-workout drink. If you typically like a stimulating caffeinated beverage before you workout, you may want to skip it for your evening workout. While it only takes an hour or two for your body to cool down, it can take over six hours for caffeine to leave your system.
Exercise and Sleep Apnea
One of the top benefits regular exercise can have on your sleep quality, is that it can help treat sleep apnea. If you are a sufferer of sleep apnea, then you know how disruptive it can be to your sleep. One of the leading causes of sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity. While you cannot control your soft palate in the middle of the night, you can control your weight.
By creating and sticking to a moderated diet and regular exercise you will be able to loose weight and therefore your sleep apnea should improve. This is important to get under control. Not only because sleep apnea can have terrible effects on your sleep quality, but because it is also associated with many cardiorespiratory problems.
Insomnia and Exercise
If you suffer from insomnia it is important to talk to a doctor and look at every factor of your lifestyle into account. There are so many different factors that could be causing your insomnia. However, It has been shown that a consistent long term workout routines can help to decrease insomnia and help increase the amount/quality of sleep.
A study followed seventeen insomnia sufferers through a 16 weeks study with a regular aerobic workout program. As a whole they saw a significant increase in sleep quantity and quality. So if you are wanting to sleep better, it might be worth a shot to begin working out on a regular basis.
Yoga For Sleeping:
There are so many different versions and levels of yoga that can be pursued. Most yoga is rather calming and focuses a lot on deep breathing and stretching. If you are wanting to integrate a second workout, yoga is a perfect way to start and/or end your day. It is low impact and helps to center the body and mind. There are even different movements that are used for waking up and going to sleep.
Yoga Nidra is a practice that is used to help you fall asleep. It is closely related to meditation and is done mostly while laying down. The US Army has even utilized this practice in order to help soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder get to sleep. While this is more of a meditation and less of an exercise, it is a great practice to put into your fitness schedule for better sleep.
If you want to learn about the benefits Yoga & Meditation can have on your sleep schedule, check out our article on Meditation for Sleep.
New Gym Members – Take Note:
In order to reap the benefits of exercise, you need to stick to your routine. Exercise should become a part of your lifestyle. It is not a quick fix and the benefits will subside if you stop. When you first start out, you may experience some lethargy after your workouts. This is normal and to be expected when you are very first starting out.
If you keep going, you will gain endurance. This endurance will carry over into your daily life and will help keep everyday activities from tiring you out as easily. If you are working out in the mornings (and you have a healthy heart) you might want to consider having some caffeine before your workout. This can help you get through your workout and also prevent a post workout crash.
Exercise AND Diet:
One thing we see overall is that exercise is pretty good for you. However, when you combine exercise with a healthy diet it becomes GREAT! When your body has the proper fuel it needs in order to exercise and also create muscles and all the other cells in the body, your life will improve significantly. A healthy diet can also change your energy level and sleeping habits all on it’s own. However, the winning combination of a healthy diet and exercise should never be underestimated.
If you are wanting to make some big changes to how you feel and how you sleep. Then you should look into your diet and make sure you are fueling your body appropriately. This will help you to get the most out of your workouts. Nutritionists are a great source for information and by visiting one you can get more information on what in your diet can be improved. Many Personal Trainers are also experienced nutritionists. If you have a trainer or if you’re looking for one, you should ask them about looking into your diet.
Check out the Best and Worst Foods Before Bed to see if what you’re eating is keeping you awake at night.
Is Exercise Good For Sleep? The Verdict:
An overwhelming YES! From almost every angle you can look at it from, exercise improves sleep. It also increases energy levels throughout the day. That makes working out great for anyone who is struggling to regulate a healthy sleep schedule. Keep in mind that in order to get the benefits of exercise you must make it a full lifestyle change.
This means staying consistent with your workout routine. When you stop and start exercise routines, unfortunately you will not experience as many benefits overall. So stick to it! Start slowly if you need to, but staying consistent and integrating exercise into your daily life will greatly impact your sleep for the better.