Exercise – How it can affect your sleep

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Did you know that people who follow a regular exercise schedule have fewer nights of sleeplessness? It’s true. Insomnia is not a common occurrence when exercise is part of your daily schedule.  Exercise also promotes a better night’s sleep by improving sleep quality. When you exercise, you experience smoother transitions between the various cycles and phases of sleep throughout the night. After exercise it has been shown that many fall asleep faster, and remain in the deepest “Stage 4” sleep for a longer period of time.

For a good night of sleep, try doing vigorous exercising through the daytime or stretching exercise routine at bedtime. (However, do not exercise vigorously right before bedtime as this may hinder your ability to fall asleep.) A moderate exercise regimen of only 30 minutes 5 days per week will not only give you a better, more restful night of sleep, but it will also increase your energy level throughout the day.

Many people regularly purchase over the counter medication to aid sleep, or are prescribed sleeping tablets by a doctor. However, for many, exercise added to the daily routine can overcome sleep problems without the need for any medications.


How does exercise combat sleeplessness?


There have been two finding that are important in relation to sleeplessness and exercise:

  1. Those who experience sleeplessness and insomnia have been shown to lead more sedentary lives than those that are good sleepers. This may be due to the fact that the normal rise and fall of a person’s body temperature does not happen in those that do not participate in physical activity.  
  2.  When you do exercise, there is a significant increase in your body temperature. A few hours later, a drop in body temperature can be measured. That drop in body temperature after an exercise routine can make it easier for a person to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

 If you have difficulty sleeping the best exercises are ones that involve significant use of your legs.  These are known as weight bearing – or load-bearing exercises and include step aerobics, weight-lifting, hiking, stair-climbing, jogging, dance and movement class, racquet sports, and brisk walking – all requiring your muscles to work against gravity. Thirty minutes daily of weight-bearing exercise benefits not only your bones, but also improves heart health, muscle strength, coordination and balance. Vigorous use of the leg muscles can act like a tranquilizer, making sleep much easier to achieve.

Aerobic exercise is considered to be the best type of activity to combat sleeplessness. This is because these exercises allow more oxygen to enter the blood, due to the fact that you normally breathe more deeply while doing aerobic exercise.  

However, exercising vigorously is not something to do right before you try to go to sleep. The rise in body temperature and the stimulation from the exercise can make sleep much harder to achieve due to your muscles and circulation system working at an increased rate. If you work out in the morning, afternoon or early evening, this will normally provide you with a better night of sleep.


Sweet dreams!

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