Are you looking for a healthy, all natural way to get the Zzzs you need? Several studies show that exercise improves sleep in many ways.
Achieving balance is a difficult task for many modern people. Strapped for time, we are sometimes left choosing between healthy behaviors such as exercise and getting enough sleep. However, avoiding a daily workout for sleep may actually make you even more tired in the long run. Exercise improves sleep in a variety of ways, especially when you time exercise in line with your circadian rhythm.
Studies Show Exercise Improves Sleep Quality
If you get plenty of sleep (or even if you don’t!) and feel you aren’t as awake as you’d like to be, getting a little more exercise may be the answer. A recent study at Oregon State University has found that that people who exercise report feeling more alert throughout the day. They are 45 percent less likely to have issues with concentration and 65 percent less likely to feel sleepy during the day. This echoes the results of prior studies, which have found that less than one-fifth of people who exercise report poor sleep, while around half of those who do not exercise do.
How much exercise is needed to improve your sleep? The answer is less than you think. You do not have to train for marathons to enjoy better sleep. Just 150 minutes per week is enough to improve your sleep quality by as much as 65 percent.
The Sleep-Exercise Connection
There are several ways that exercise can improve your sleep. First, exercising raises your body temperature so you can get through the biological afternoon slump that affects so many. With more activity in the afternoon, your body is primed to sleep better at night. This wakening effect is especially strong if you exercise in the sunlight, as light naturally increases production of hormones associated with wakefulness and decreases levels of melatonin and other sleepy biochemicals.
Second, exercise tires you out so you can sleep better at night. Many people suffer from insomnia, but they are less likely to do so when they exercise regularly.
The Best Time to Exercise
If you are looking to get the most benefit out of daily exercise, experts have a few tips. Because exercise wakes you up, exercising late at night may be counterproductive. You may find that you are more wakeful after exercising for a few hours after vigorous physical activity and have trouble settling down for the night.
Several studies suggest that late afternoon is the best time to exercise. Mice who exercise late in the day produce more clock proteins, the proteins that act as pacemakers for the circadian rhythm. In addition, exercise in the afternoon or early evening may do more to increase your strength and flexibility while reducing injury.
This time period is also the most effective for getting physical results from exercise. Exercising in the late afternoon may lead to faster muscle gain and quicker weight loss. By timing your workouts correctly, you can sleep better at night and have more benefits while awake.
Sleep and exercise have a synergistic effect that can benefit health immensely. Exercise improves sleep, which improves exercise, which improves sleep. When you sleep better, you have more energy to exercise. When you exercise more, you have higher quality sleep. While it can be difficult to adopt new lifestyle changes, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can pay off in more energy, more alertness and better physical health.