Does the exercise you do really help you sleep better? Exercise is one of the most common suggestions to people who are finding it difficult to get to sleep, but studies suggest that the time of day you exercise, and the type of exercise you do, both effect the way you sleep.
Types of Exercise Good for Sleep
A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania has suggested that some forms of exercise are better for sleep than others. The study found that although walking is better than doing nothing, aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight lifting and yoga/Pilates are all associated with better sleeping habits. However, many of these exercises can have negative effects if done at the wrong time of day.
Yoga is a form of exercise that you can do before bed as it can relax your muscles and is linked to relieving stress. This is because breathing exercises and regulating your heart rate are important parts of yoga. When you concentrate on your breathing, it sends messages to the brain and makes you feel more relaxed. Studies have even shown yoga to help people with chronic insomnia, cancer survivors, and people with osteoarthritis to improve their quality of sleep.
Similarly, Pilates and light aerobics can be used to the same effect. Certain Pilates exercises are designed to help you to relax before bed and light aerobics can help as the stretching can loosen tight muscles and make you feel calmer as a result. However, you need to be careful not to over-do either of these types of exercise right before bed as vigorous exercise can have the opposite effect.
- Light aerobics
Types of Exercise Bad for Sleep
Although they have the potential to be beneficial to sleep, the more active types of exercise such as biking, running and weight lifting can have negative effects on the way that you sleep if done right before bed. This is because these forms of exercise can heighten your state of alertness by increasing your metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and adrenaline levels which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, it is better to exercise earlier on in the day and stop any exercise at least 3-4 hours before bed. Regular exercise in the morning has even been said to relieve insomnia.
The study also showed that people who say they get most of their exercise through household work and childcare were more likely to have insufficient sleep. Both of these activities, although they are not exercise per se, can involve a lot of physical activity. However, although you may feel like you have been running around all day, you could get a worse night’s sleep than if you had done no exercise at all. This could be linked to stress which can be associated with both of these activities.
- Weight lifting
- Household work
The Effect of Sleep on Exercise
Just as exercise affects your sleeping habits, sleep can have a short term effect on your performance when exercising. Studies have shown that a poor night’s sleep can have a negative effect on any exercise you try to do the next day as you will feel tired and not want to do as much as you would if you were well rested. If you do a lot of vigorous exercise, your body needs time to repair muscles, the human growth hormone is crucial to this and is mostly released during sleep, so if the sleep is of poor quality then it can have a negative impact on the human growth hormone levels. Therefore, it is important to get the right balance between exercise and sleep.