Posted on 31 October 2017
You know we love exercise and there are only a few things that we love in equal measures. One being food - le duh - and the other, sleep.
No thanks to the overly stimulated lives we lead, it’s hard to power down and get to sleep; tied to the blue screens of our laptops, TVs and phones, these days it seems like everyone is always tired but can’t switch off.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Even when we’re sound asleep, our bodies are still working very hard so that we wake up feeling fresh and ready to face the world. So, sleep is vital to help your mental and physical health, and improve your quality of life.
I mean, we all love a good snooze anyway, but how amazing are these benefits?
Your muscles repair and rebuild during sleep, as the body releases growth hormones, so if you’re keen to recover from your gym sesh properly, getting some Zs can only bring on good things.
If you don’t get enough sleep – we sense a whole lot of ‘uh huh, preach, that’s me!’ right now – then you’ll probably find you will eat more, as tiredness can produce more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin (is it a coincidence that ghrelin sounds like gremlin? We think not!), not to mention that lack of sleep can lead to feeling run down and therefore making you more susceptible to colds.
How Does Exercise Help You Sleep Better?
Sleep and exercise are mutually beneficial: sleep helps the body recover and exercising can actually help you sleep better.
It’s been discovered that exercise can actually improve the quality of your sleep. That’s because physical activity – even as little as ten minutes a day – can help increase your time in deep sleep. This stage of sleep is important, as here is where your body will be restoring as much energy as it can from the previous day.
It’s thought that exercise not only improves the quality, but also improves the duration of sleep that you get. What’s that… quantity AND quality? Well, that’s almost having your cake and eating it too if you ask us.
Exercising can also help reduce stress and anxiety, both of which are common causes of lack of sleep.
What Types of Exercise Help You Sleep Better?
This is down to you, in the same way that the certain exercises won’t necessarily get the same results for everyone.
It could depend on your mood, energy and stress levels, and even outside contributing factors such as the weather.
If you find that going for a long run before bed is what you need, versus a slow-paced yoga salutation, then do that. Your workout routine and sleep routine should always be what is best for you.
The Best Time of Day to Work Out if You Want a Good Night’s Sleep
No two people are the same and, although it’s been argued that working out close to bedtime is not great as it could overstimulate the body, some have found that this isn’t the case and, in fact, enjoy working out close to bed to help tire them out.
So, technically there is no rule of thumb here. You do you.
Working out in the morning is good for many reasons.
Though at first it may seem counterproductive to disturb your sleep with an intrusive 5 a.m. alarm, morning exercise can actually help you have deeper sleep at night, so once you’ve got used to that early wake-up call, you won’t find it such a struggle to get up and should find that you have more energy throughout the day.
What’s more, if you’ve got your workout out of the way, you can invest time in the evening winding down in time for bed. What a dream.
One way to beat the sleepy afternoon slump is to get up and move your body, as exercising in the afternoon is also thought to encourage your shut-eye later that night.
Did you know that your body is slightly warmer in the afternoon, compared to when you first wake up, so your muscles can work more efficiently? That does not mean you can skip your warm up (we’re watching you!), but it does mean that your body temperature should remained raised for a good few hours and, as it starts to cool, your body takes that as a signal that it’s time to shift to sleep mode.
If you love your evening workouts and you’re seeing no impact to your sleep routine, then continue as you are. As we’ve said, some people enjoy a workout in the evening and if this you, there’s no need to switch your routine.
However, if you are struggling, perhaps think about moving your workout to different times of the day. If that’s not possible because your routine is ruled by a child or work and social commitments, maybe try low-impact workouts to help you unwind ready for a restful night.
Oh, one additional thing to consider if you’re a late exerciser is how your post-workout meal could affect your sleep. Avoid large meals or foods that give you heartburn or overfill you.
How Long Should You Exercise to Encourage Sleep?
The good news is that as little as ten minutes of exercise can help you slip into a slumber, and it doesn’t have to be intense either, the reason being that working out expends energy, so, as long as you get your bod moving, you should reap the rewards.
Whatever time of day you choose to work out, try to unwind and relax before bed. Also, avoid screens and bright lights to help encourage you to drift off.
We’re sorry if this post has made you crave a nap.
For more help and advice with fitness, workout, nutrition and lifestyle, check out our blog.