How Exercise Improves Sleep
Among its Many Benefits, Exercise Improves Sleep
It’s no secret that hitting the gym, running, swimming, biking, and other physical, sport-like activities are good for us. In fact, getting plenty of exercise (and avoiding the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle) can do A LOT to help you stay healthy, happy, and sane.
But did you know that exercise can also help to improve your quality of sleep?
As it turns out, it certainly can.
Here’s what you need to know.
Statistics From the Latest Studies
Several studies that have been done in recent years have shown that physical exercise has a much greater impact on our quality of sleep than we used to think. In fact, many researchers are telling us to ‘put away the sleeping pills,’ because exercise is quickly becoming a priority treatment for people suffering from insomnia.
One study, for example, showed that older women with insomnia noticed that their sleep quality improved from poor to good when they exercised. They also reported that they were less depressed, and had more energy.
There have also been a range of studies released lately that focus on clinically diagnosed insomnia, which are much more accurate than some other studies which have pretty much relied on patient self-assessments of quality of sleep… not necessarily on data obtained in sleep studies.
The results of these studies? They have taught doctors a lot about the relationship between exercise and sleep—and make a definite case for the fact that staying physically active not only helps to treat insomnia, but that exercise is less dangerous than taking a sleeping pill. It is also apparent that people who exercise regularly are simply less likely to develop insomnia in the first place.
How Does Exercise Benefit Sleep?
The biggest benefit to exercising is that it helps to burn calories. In cases where sleep apnea or snoring are playing a significant role in a disturbed night’s sleep, this can be a huge win… because losing weight can correlate to a decreased chance of snoring.
But there are also other ways in which exercise can help you to get a better night’s rest. Exercise releases all kinds of good chemicals in the body, helps to decrease the odds of suffering from conditions like restless leg syndrome, and tends to make people less depressed. All of these things (and more) play a role.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Most studies have shown that you should try to get at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week. This means exercise that could be described as ‘moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.’ Researchers also say that you should take part in strength or resistance training that targets every muscle group, and that such exercise routines should take place at least twice a week.
When Should You Exercise?
Getting exercise is obviously the most important part of this entire discussion—so anytime that you can exercise, you should. Of course, making sure that you do it is more important than when you choose to do it.
But, with that being said, most researchers say that exercising outside, during the day when the sunlight is bright, is better. Sunlight is said to stimulate our brains in such a way that it will help to prepare us for sleep when it gets darker.
In fact, some say that morning is the best time to exercise—and that workouts should actually be avoided within 6 hours of bedtime. Working out too close to bed-time, as it turns out, may get your blood pumping and your brain racing to the point where going to sleep may prove more difficult.