A good night’s sleep can often be taken for granted. Some of us have trouble falling asleep, others of us may find it difficult to stay asleep. Whatever the circumstance, many factors can affect the way we sleep at night. Science indicates that exercise plays a substantial role in the quality of our sleep. Spoiler alert, it’s not difficult to get a good night’s sleep and we don’t need to push ourselves to failure every time we’re at the gym! Here are some of our favorite ways to optimize sleep quality through exercise.
The most effective way to increase the quality of our sleep is to appropriately time our workout about five hours before going to bed. Our body temperature elevates when we workout and then plateaus when our heart rates goes back to normal. The post-exercise drop in our body temperature is what’s beneficial. The cooler our temperature the easier it is to fall asleep. It is not recommended however to workout directly before bed. After working out our body is pumping with adrenaline. Adrenaline increases our heart rate and often awakens our body, making us feel more alert; it is a natural chemical release and cannot be prevented. Having extra adrenaline in our system after a workout will make it difficult to calm our bodies down and we won’t be able to fall asleep. It’s best to give our bodies a minimum of five hours after a workout before sleeping. During that time our body will recover on its own, cool down, and regulate our heart rate. Timing is everything, at least in this case.
Don’t be discouraged from working out early in the morning. It’s important we get our exercise and if that’s the only time we can squeeze it into our busy schedules that’s fine. Exercise can boost our mood because of the endorphins our body releases. Once released through exercise the endorphins interact with receptors in our brain that trigger happiness. This natural energy boost can help subdue stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep. If our mind isn’t clogged with worries we are able to slip off into dreamland with ease.
Falling asleep can be trickier if we become overweight. Tossing and turning in order to get comfortable can seem impossible and cause a restless night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is a common disorder for people who are overweight. It causes the person to have interrupted breathing patterns and shortness of breath when they sleep. Staying active and getting an hour of exercise, whether it’s a brisk walk, a cardio class, or lifting weights at the gym, at least four times a week will help prevent this sleep disorder.
The relationship between exercise and sleep is a two way street. Not only does exercise positively affect the quality of our sleep, but sleeping soundly will leave us rested and motivated to workout the following day. Restful sleep and regular exercise result in positive outcomes for our body.