Most people already know that exercise produces a ton of health and wellness benefits for the human body. It can improve heart health, elevate your mood, and even help you burn more body fat. But here’s a secret benefit that most people don’t know about: and also improves your sleep!
A recent survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation focused on this topic. And it discovered some very interesting results. Out of all the respondents, a whopping 83% of people who claimed that they exercised vigorously on a regular basis also claimed that they slept more, felt more refreshed in the morning, and had an easier time falling asleep at bedtime. Conversely, only 56% of the people who filled out the survey and reported a lack of exercise claimed that they had a healthy sleep pattern. Granted, we should point out the fact that correlation does not always equal causation. But it does make you wonder about why these two things are so closely related.
Excitingly, this survey isn’t the only bit of research which sheds light on this connection. There are actually dozens of different studies which show the same thing. So now that you know that exercise has the potential to improve your sleeping habits, what are you going to do about it? We have some tips below for utilizing the power of exercise in order to help your body get better, healthier sleep at night. We hope you learn something useful, and that you try out some of these tips for yourself.
When Should You Work Out in Order to Sleep Better? it Depends on Different Factors
Your body has evolved over tens of thousands of years to follow a specific daily pattern of habits known as the circadian rhythm. When the sun comes up, your body is designed to respond to the bright light of the sun and the warmth of a new day by getting an energy boost and wanting to get active. Conversely, when the sun sets and it gets dark and cool outside, your body is designed to relax and get ready for rest. Controlling your exposure to certain types of light during the day is one way to help your body get better sleep; timing your exercise to the right hour of the day can yield similar benefits.
Depending on your lifestyle and your needs, it may be difficult to time your exercise optimally. Most people get the best results when they get exercise outdoors in the early morning hours while the sun is at its brightest. People who can’t do that can try squeezing in a long walk after dinner, or some late-night weight training at their local gym when it’s less busy. If you want to adjust your exercise routine to get better sleep, we suggest trying any of these options. Whichever one works best for you, stick with it! You’ll start getting better quality rest and fall asleep easier in no time.
Keep it Simple, Silly: Don’t Go Crazy With Your Exercise
One bad habit which civilized society has adopted in recent years is believing that “more is better”. This isn’t always the case – and under certain circumstances, too much of a good thing can be very, very bad! This is definitely the case where your sleep is concerned. Instead of overdoing it, aim for an exercise sweet spot which is appropriate for you.
Let’s revisit the survey we started with a few minutes ago. What we didn’t mention earlier was the people who reported vigorous daily exercise in excess of a single hour actually had worse problems sleeping then people who exercise less. Too much exercise can have an overstimulating effect which makes it harder to fall asleep at night and reduces your overall quality of sleep. So if you have an exercise routine that makes you want to go overboard, be careful – because it could be compromising your sleep.
Give Yoga a Try
We don’t like to make such specific recommendations, but going back to the survey data, it looks as though the yogis are onto something. For everyone on the survey who reported ideal or close to ideal sleeping patterns, the majority of them got most of their physical activity from yoga. This is especially true when juxtaposing them with people who weren’t getting any exercise. Not only did yoga beat out no exercise, it was also better for people’s sleep than walking.
Why yoga, you may be thinking? It has to do with the connection between yoga and stress. Specifically, people who get regular physical activity from yoga consistently show lower levels of cortisol in their system. Cortisol is a hormone in your body which, although necessary at times, can stress you out and cause physical damage if you produce too much of it. For reasons that scientists still don’t completely understand, practicing yoga is a great way to naturally lower cortisol levels in the body. When your cortisol levels are low and under control, you’ll have an easier time relaxing at night, falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting better quality sleep. It’s when cortisol levels are high that you feel anxious, restless, and feel wide awake when you should be falling asleep.
Creating a Relaxing Buffer Between Exercise and Sleep
Speaking of relaxing, if you can’t or don’t want to time your activity levels earlier in the day, make sure that you create a window of opportunity to relax between your evening workout and your bedtime. You can try things like:
- Taking a warm bath
- Reading a book
- Writing in a journal
- Listening to relaxing music
- Engaging in any other non-stimulating activity
Whatever you do, just make sure that you put a little space between your exercise and your bed. Not only will you sleep better, but it’s something you should be doing anyway if you’re trying to improve your overall sleep hygiene.
Stay Away from Sleeping Drugs – and Find a Natural Remedy Instead
Regardless of when you exercise, how much you exercise, or the type of exercise you do, you can improve your sleep quality further by investing in a natural sleep aid. Prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills are dangerous because they can harm your brain health and compromise the quality of sleep you get. But a natural remedy with ingredients like melatonin, chamomile, or 5-HTP can relax your brain and de-stress your body to improve sleep quality. Between an herbal sleep aid and improving your exercise routine, it should be easier than ever now for you to get the quality sleep you deserve.