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The relationship between exercise and sleep quality is undeniable. Physical activity is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, but does exercise help you sleep? While many may think exercise is mainly beneficial to cardiovascular health, the positive effects on sleep health can be equally significant. Exercising regularly simultaneously increases sleep quality and decreases daytime sleepiness.
Undesirable side-effects, such as post-exercise insomnia, may occur if you exercise too late in the day. However, proper steps can be taken to lessen the severity and avoid insomnia altogether. With regular exercise and unusual sleep hacks that work, you can lead a healthier lifestyle.
What’s the connection between exercise and sleep quality?
In order to understand how exercise improves sleep quality, it’s important to establish indicators of quality sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, signs of good quality sleep include:
- Sleeping at least 85 percent of the total time while in bed and actively trying to sleep.
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less.
- Waking up no more than once per night.
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.
The link between exercise and sleep quality is a two-way street. Poor sleep quality will make you less active, and better sleep quality will make you more active. To go one step further, scientists have shown that improving sleep quality can make you adopt a more active overall lifestyle.
When identifying the balance of exercise and sleep that works best for you, be mindful of your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, too. Post-exercise insomnia can be avoided by exercising at the time of the day that doesn’t disrupt your circadian rhythm. Typically, exercising in the morning or afternoon is the most compatible with your sleep-wake cycle, but each person is unique.
4 Ways Exercise Can Affect Sleep
1. Increased Quality and Quantity: Studies have shown that just 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week can improve sleep quality by 65%. This translates to falling asleep easier and feeling well-rested. Between 35 to 40 percent of Americans struggle with feeling sleepy throughout the day.
Regular physical activity is so effective at increasing sleep quality that it can serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improving sleep. In some studies, it’s been shown that adults with chronic insomnia were able to fall asleep more quickly, slept slightly longer, and had better sleep quality after consistent exercise.
2. Types of Exercise: The top three exercise activities scientifically proven to increase sleep quality include cardio, strength training, and yoga. All these exercises increase sleep quality but can each be used to achieve specific sleep goals.
- Cardio: High-intensity activities that increase your heart rate such as running, swimming, and cycling can improve sleep and combat insomnia. In one study, high self-perceived exercise exertion before bedtime is associated with better sleep patterns in young adults. It’s simple — you’re exhausted!
- Strength Training: Muscle-building exercises have shown to improve sleep quality while helping you fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently throughout the night. After a muscle-building workout, your physical body will be able to slow down and crave rest. Just tell your mind to follow suit.
- Yoga: The poses and breathing exercises associated with yoga can decrease stress and help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. If you prefer incorporating exercise into your bedtime routine for adults, yoga is the best activity to calm your mind.
3. Post-Exercise Insomnia: After a strenuous workout, some people report an inability to fall asleep despite being physically exhausted. This is most common when your level of exertion was greater than normal during a workout. Increased intensity in a workout can lead to an excess amount of the hormones cortisol and norepinephrine being released. While there isn’t much you can do to change your hormonal response to intense exercise, you can combat post-exercise insomnia by staying hydrated, managing stress levels, and sleeping in a cooler environment.
If you’re working out at night and having trouble falling asleep, you might want to consider working out in the morning instead. Exercising too close to bedtime can cause increased alertness and a spike in your internal temperature, which can have the same effect as trying to sleep in hot weather.
4. Consistency: To reap all the benefits exercise has on sleep quality, a consistent routine is necessary. In fact, it may take several weeks or months to significantly change your sleep patterns. A study done over the course of 16 weeks showed that the sleep quality of those who performed three to four 30-minute sessions of moderate aerobic exercise a week improved significantly. They also reported improvements to their mood and quality of life versus their sedentary counterparts.
Work up a sweat to get a better sleep mindset.
The link between exercise and sleep quality can feel like the chicken or the egg debate. Which impacts which? The truth is that both sleep and physical activity are important components of a healthy lifestyle and they both have an impact on the other. The more sleep you get, the better workouts you’ll have, and those better workouts will promote higher quality sleep. It’s important to maintain a consistent regimen to see tangible results.
Exercise isn’t the only factor that affects your sleep quality. Sore muscles can’t get the right recovery on an outdated, unpersonalized sleep system. Your sleep system should be uniquely customized to fit your individual needs.
At Mattress Warehouse, BEDGEAR uses an individual’s PillowID ® to determine which pillow is the best fit based on physical characteristics, conditions like back pain or joint discomfort, and your preferred sleep position. If you’re exercising and still not attaining fully restorative sleep for your mind and body, shop the BEDGEAR line of performance bedding.