Chances are, you know the quality of your sleep affects your overall well-being and health, and so does exercise. But, does exercise make it easier to fall asleep, or harder? Actually, the answer is both.
Generally, exercise is great for your health, and enhances sleep quality. In fact, several studies show exercising regularly contributes to more overall sleep, and better quality rest.
But, it also can affect your ability to sleep, which you'll learn more about below.
Exercise provides a boost to sleep in various ways.
Exercise can decrease sleep latency. This is where you're able to fall asleep quicker. Exercise also increases sleep efficiency (you won't be lying in bed wide awake so much).
Exercise contributes to more restful, sound sleep. Moderate aerobic exercise helps to increase the amount of deep sleep (slow wave) you get, where your body and brain have the opportunity to rejuvenate. Exercise helps decompress your mind, and stabilize your mood. Mind decompression is a cognitive process essential for the ability to naturally transition to sleep. Deep sleep helps:
Along with enhancing your quality of sleep, exercise helps increase the duration of your slumber. By being physically active, you have to expend energy, and this helps make you tired and ready for sleep at the end of the day. A regular, consistent exercise routine, according to research, helps boost sleep quality and sleep duration.
You can reduce your stress levels with a regular exercise routine. Stress often causes sleep issues, including difficulty falling asleep, and sleeping during the night restlessly. Exercise is a great remedy for mood disorders, like anxiety. It triggers your body's anti-anxiety responses. Stretching, yoga, and other mind-body exercises help quiet your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to relax. According to research, they:
Research shows exercise is a natural, effective therapy for insomnia. Aerobics in particular, help reduce symptoms of insomnia. Those with insomnia will notice gradual benefits from exercise; not immediate, the research shows. Studies show exercise helps lower sleep disordered breathing severity, and could also reduce the severity of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea).
Some individuals aren't healthy enough for exercise, and in those who are, intense exercise can result in awakenings in the middle of the night. These awakenings could be a result of increased adrenaline levels and/or hyperarousal (hard to relax) during the night following the exercising. Also, increased body heat could make sleeping difficult.
You may find exercising too close to your bedtime may keep you up at night. There are a couple reasons for this:
Even with these biological responses to exercise, you could see no difference in your sleep after exercising. Whether you exercise in the morning or right before bed, you'll see a benefit to your sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation ran a "Sleep in America" Poll in 2013 examining the relationship between exercise and sleep. Below are the poll's top five results.
So, how much exercise is correct? There isn't any one correct answer for this. The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health suggest a minimum of 150 minutes each week of exercise for healthy adults. This equates to 30 minutes daily, five days a week. Research shows sleep might receive its more substantial benefits from exercise when the exercise is routine and consistent over time, particularly if you're experiencing difficulty sleeping.
Go for a bike ride or jog around your neighborhood, perform a cardio session on your treadmill, or lift some weights at the gym. Any bit of exercise could help you sleep better at night, and feel better during the day. Just remember though, exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with sleep.