It’s estimated that one in three people suffer from disrupted sleep or insomnia.
If you’re one of them, no doubt you’ll have tried every tip under the sun; relaxing before bed, reducing screen time, using essential oils – perhaps to varying degrees of success.
However, have you ever considered that your level of activity throughout the day could have an impact on your ability to fall or stay asleep? Studies have shown that people with chronic insomnia who exercise regularly fall asleep up to 13 minutes faster and stay asleep 18 minutes longer.
So, does exercise help you sleep better? We look at the different ways that exercise can affect your sleep.
One of the key factors in sleep disorders is stress. Over-analysing or worrying about things when you go to bed is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
When you exercise, aerobic exercise in particular, you release endorphins. These are “feel-good” hormones that reduce stress and pain and can literally make you feel happier, helping you to go to bed feeling more relaxed.
However, if you opt for a high-intensity workout like weights, HIIT or running, make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime. At least two hours before will give your brain time to wind down and allow your heart rate to drop. Low-impact exercise, such as walking or yoga, can be done closer to bedtime.
Aches and Pains
If niggling pains are affecting your sleep, the right exercise can help. Those who suffer from back pain, for example, might find that gentle regular exercise such as swimming, yoga and Pilates make a difference.
It might also be worth reviewing your mattress and checking it’s up to the job. When looking for the best mattresses for back health, look for one that supports the alignment of the neck, spine and pelvis.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural internal 24-hour cycle. If you’re a night owl and have trouble getting to sleep, you may be able to shift your circadian rhythm by working out in the morning.
Those who exercise in the morning tend to be more alert and responsive during the day and sleepier towards the evening. If you’re generally more alert in the evenings, exercising later on may reinforce your body’s internal clock, making it harder for you to fall asleep, and less likely to feel alert in the morning.
Exercise increases your core body temperature, telling the body that it’s time to be awake. When it starts to cool down, this effect can induce sleepiness. The time of day you exercise might be a key factor in your sleep quality and can vary from person to person. Try keeping a record of your exercise and sleep routines to find out what works for you.
How Much Exercise Do I Need?
Experts agree that around 30 minutes of moderate exercise should be enough to have a beneficial impact on your sleep.
What type of exercise you choose is up to you, but try and find something you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick to it. Whether that’s a brisk walk, a Pilates class or your local tennis club, hopefully you’ll soon be feeling the benefits.