Exercise and Sleep: Best Time to Exercise to Improve Sleep Quality
The scientific community has extensively researched the relationship between sleep and exercise for years. Some researchers even preach about exercise as the daytime activity that impacts getting a good night’s sleep.
Prior and recent research suggests that exercising can improve sleep quality while inadequate and poor quality sleep can lead to lower levels of physical activity. As such, the relationship between sleep and exercise is a reciprocal one.
In other words, having an efficient and intensive exercise routine can not only be beneficial for your cardiovascular health. It can also help you sleep better, and getting an adequate amount of sleep can promote healthy physical activity levels.
How Does Exercise Affect Sleep?
Exercising regularly hosts many health benefits, such as lowering the risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes, improving physical function, maintaining mental health, or helping facilitate weight management.
Exercise improves sleep quality.
It increases your quantity of sleep. And your deep sleep duration, which is the most restorative stage of sleep during which human growth hormones are released, your heart rate and breathing slow down, and your body is in a state of physical reparation.
Specifically, moderate-vigorous exercise can improve the sleep quality of adults. Exercise reduces the time it takes to fall asleep because exercise physically tires you out, increasing your need for sleep. Exercising can also help alleviate daytime drowsiness and reduce the dependency on sleep medications.
A survey by the National Sleep Foundation in 2003 asked adults between the ages of 55 and 84 about their physical activity levels and their sleep habits. 52% of the respondents said they exercised three or more times per week, while 24% said they exercised less than that. The 24% also reported they were more likely to sleep less than 6 hours a night, experience poor sleep quality, and be diagnosed with insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome.
As such, physical activities can also improve sleep indirectly. Because exercising can help with weight loss and decrease the risk of obesity, it can also lower their risk of experiencing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition that is highly attributed to obesity.
Exercise can relieve Stress.
Another example of how physical activity can indirectly improve your sleep can be found when looking at your brain. There is a strong connection between stress and sleep problems.
Nearly half of adults report stressful thoughts as what prohibits them from falling asleep. Exercise is a highly effective method for relieving stress as it releases endorphins which give you a post-exercise high, improve your mood and reduce stress.
How does Sleep affect Exercising?
Those who have insufficient sleep tend to be less physically active than those who get adequate sleep every night. This may result from fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and low energy associated with not getting enough sleep, making it challenging to exercise.
On the contrary, when you sleep better, your physical abilities improve. Athletes who get sufficient sleep saw improvement in their performance while having a lower risk of injuries. This was shown by the Stanford University men’s basketball team when they improved their sprint time by a half-second and increased their shooting percentages by 9% just by improving their sleep quality.
When Should I Exercise for Better Sleep?
The best time in the day to exercise depends on each individual.
However, experts say it’s not best not to exercise at night as it may interfere with sleep by leaving you feeling energized and stimulated while you’re trying to sleep. This is because exercising can raise your body’s core temperature, which is opposite of what happens to your body when you’re asleep.
Usually, about two hours before bed, your body temperature lowers to give you a sense of drowsiness and let your brain know it’s time for bed. It is best to avoid any moderate to vigorous exercises 3-4 hours before bed.
How Much Should You Exercise for Better Sleep?
Studies struggle to find a conclusive answer to this question.
Some studies suggest that a 30 minute moderate to vigorous workout is enough to improve sleep for that night. Other studies have found that it takes longer to experience the positive impact exercising has on sleep.
So while there’s no correct answer, committing to exercising regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes a day will be beneficial for your sleep, physical health and mental health in general.
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Written by: Sean Shih