Are you tired and groggy during the day? Do you struggle to keep your eyes open during work? This is not how you should be feeling, and is probably caused by getting an inadequate amount of sleep. Millions of people all over the world suffer in numerous ways every day because they are not getting enough sleep.
A lack of sleep can result in a number of ailments, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes. Luckily, there are a number options that you can pursue to help you get a thorough, restful sleep. One of these options includes exercising. Exercising can be an enjoyable habit, which also correlates to a healthy lifestyle. But how exactly can exercise improve sleep?
Let’s Break It Down!
Researchers have long since suspected that there is a direct link between exercise and sleep. Even by taking a quick comparison between athletes and people who are more sedentary, it is clear which group of people are more awake and healthy. Although the correlation between exercise and sleep is still being investigated, numerous studies have been performed on the topic. In general, it has been found that people who exercise have more restful sleep than people who don’t. Here are some factors that may explain why this is.
Everybody has what is known as a ‘sleep-wake cycle’. This is when a person’s body temperature increases during the day and decreases later at night. When the body temperature reaches a lower level, it is an internal trigger that tells the body to sleep.
When a person exercises, this will raise their body temperature to a higher level than it is normally at. Approximately four to five hours after exercising, that temperature is going to regulate itself so that it is lower than it was before. This will be around the time that you are going to sleep, and just as your body is preparing itself for rest. The timing for exercise is important in determining whether your sleep will be sound and restful or not. Seeing as it takes four to five hours for the body temperature to fall back down, it will typically be most beneficial to exercise in the late afternoon or early evening.
If you are lying awake at night worrying about things, it is not likely that you are going to get a sound sleep. It is even worse when you start to watch the clock and become aware of how much time is passing, as you will start to panic that you still cannot get to sleep. This will add to your level of stress, making it even harder to get to sleep. Stress is a leading cause of insomnia, and prevents people from falling and staying asleep.
When you exercise, your body starts to produce endorphins. Endorphins are hormones which act to block pain and give people a certain ‘rush’ feeling. They also provide your body with an energized and positive feeling. When people are finished their exercise routine, they will sometimes say that they have a ‘runner’s high.’ They are referring to the endorphins that are making them feel so energized. When endorphins are released in your body, they will give you a more relaxed, peaceful feeling. When you have peace of mind, you will be less likely to be worrying about stressful thoughts. Overall, your stress levels will be reduced; making it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released when triggered by a chemical signal such as stress. Cortisol is the body’s natural defence against any form of threat. It is known as one of the ‘fight or flight’ hormones. When cortisol is released, the body starts preparing to defend itself from some form of stress. This stress could be anything from a physical attack to mental anxiety. When initially starting regular exercise, the body will sense this as being stressful, and will release more cortisol.
This may confuse some people, as they will not be seeing immediate results as they had hoped to. However, it would be a mistake to quit exercising right away. This is because after a regular exercise routine has been established, the body will start to react better when faced with stress. It will then stop producing as much cortisol; reducing stress. Correspondingly, when stress levels are reduced, more restful sleep is attained.
Studies On The Topic
As written in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a study was performed to examine exercise in relation to insomnia. 11 women (the average age was 61), were tested over a period of 16 weeks to see if their insomnia would improve at all. When the subjects got into a regular routine, they slept better at night, although the change was not as great as was expected.
However as more time went by, the subjects began to sleep sounder and more regularly. This study brings up the idea that exercising will not produce restful sleep right away. Instead, people need a bit more perseverance so that they can work through it and see the results in the end.
A second study that was conducted was published by the Sleep Research Society. The purpose of this particular study was to examine a particular condition known as sleep apnea. This condition affects people by pausing their breaths as they sleep. These pauses can be very frequent throughout the night. When breathing resumes as normal, the person might make a snorting or choking noise; waking them from sleep. As a result, sufferers do not get a restful sleep.
This study focused on subjects who were overweight and inactive. This is because sleep apnea tends to affect people who fit this criteria. 43 people were tested for 12 weeks to see if exercising would reduce the effects of their sleep apnea.
Some of the group exercised more regularly and intensely. The other group members would exercise lightly and less frequently. At the end of the 12 weeks, all the subjects showed signs of lower oxygen desaturation, as well as improvement with their sleep apnea.
A study at the Oregon State University began to test subjects to see the link between cardiovascular health and sleep disorders. This study aimed to prove that exercising for at least 150 minutes per week could lead to breakthroughs in good health. The study was a success and scientists proved that sleep disorders, such as insomnia, severely affect the state of your heart health as well as many other health and body related issues.
It was important for the researchers to discover if there was a way to improve sleep without the use of pills and medications. Man-made products such as these can sometimes work against the body in a negative way. As well, the side effects of these products could affect the patient’s health even worse than their insomnia had been.
The researchers in this study actually accidentally discovered that proper exercise and daily fitness improves the quality of sleep. They all go hand in hand, really, when you think about it. Exercise equals a better body, and a better body can help manage health problems. And when you have fewer health issues, then you would obviously sleep better.
Exercises To Get You Started
You don’t have to be a workout machine to reap the benefits of exercising. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, or join a class, that’s okay! You can workout at home, by yourself or with a friend. Some simple at-home workouts will do the trick just fine. Just set aside twenty minutes each day to get in your workout and make sure to stick to it.
To start off, just keep things simple with push ups, jumping jacks, sit ups, etc. These will not only improve sleep but will indeed keep you fit! So why not give it a try?
You’ll probably need a few things to make the at-home exercising more comfortable. Considering investing in a nice yoga mat, exercise ball, and maybe even a set of small dumbbells. Or even some boxing gloves and a punching bag.
2000lbs Stability Ball
20-Pound Dumbbell Set
You might want to read: Does Exercising at Night Affect Your Sleep?
Overall, exercise is incredibly beneficial to people. It has the ability to improve health problems, reduce stress, and assist in restful sleep. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard! Simple changes to your lifestyle can make a huge difference in the end results. If you are interested in improving your sleep cycle, it is a good idea to create a regular exercise schedule. After a certain amount of time has passed, you can check your results and see the progress that you’ve made. Do not give up after only a few attempts! Be persistent and understand that progress takes time and effort, but the reward will be worth it in the end!
If you have any questions or success stories, please share them in the comments below! We want to hear what you have to say!