Most people struggle to get eight hours of quality sleep every night. You might not feel tired when your bedtime rolls around, or you may have a hard time quieting your mind and relaxing. Even if you have no problem falling asleep, you may not get enough deep sleep every night.
Poor sleep can affect every aspect of your life, from your physical health to your relationships. It’s important to get enough rest, so you can feel alert and energized enough to tackle the day. One of the best natural ways to improve your sleep quality is to start a regular exercise routine. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or a marathon runner to experience the benefits of exercise. Here are four ways exercise can help you sleep better:
1. Better Sleep Quality
People who exercise tend to spend more time in deep sleep, which is the stage where your body actually rests and restores itself. This is important for your immune system, your heart, your mental health, and the rest of your body.
In a study from the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, researchers tracked the physical activity and sleeping habits of over 3,000 adults of all ages. They interviewed each participant about their levels of sleepiness during the day. Those who met the exercise guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week experienced less daytime sleepiness, which indicates a better sleep quality. Those who exercised regularly also fell asleep faster than those who didn’t.
2. Longer Sleep Time
Exercise can help you fall asleep earlier and lengthen your sleep time, which will allow your body to spend even more time in the deep sleep stage. After physically exerting yourself, you’ll feel more tired at the end of the day. You’ll be ready to sleep by 10 or 11 pm instead of staying up past midnight because you feel restless. This way, you can get the eight hours of sleep you need every night.
3. Less Stress and Anxiety
Most people can relate to the experience of tossing and turning all night with a racing mind. Worrying occasionally is normal, but constant stress and anxiety that keeps you up at night will take a toll on your health. If you find it hard to fall asleep because your mind won’t “shut off,” exercise may be the best treatment.
Exercise has many psychological benefits and has been recognized by professionals as one of the best natural mental health treatments. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that boost your mood and make you feel great. Exercising also can reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol, two of your body’s stress hormones. Getting in shape is a great way to boost your self-confidence, too, which will make you feel better about yourself and your life. After exercising, you’ll feel mentally calmer and more optimistic, so it’s less likely that you’ll be kept awake by anxious thoughts.
4. Sleep Apnea Treatment
Obstructive sleep apnea is a fairly common disorder that has a terrible effect on sleep quality. When you have sleep apnea, the tissues in your mouth and throat collapse over your airway and prevent you from breathing. Every time this happens, you’ll wake up to gasp for air. If you have sleep apnea, you might not remember waking up, but you can wake up hundreds of times every night to breathe.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine, which is a mask that goes over your nose or mouth and provides a steady flow of air to keep your throat open. Many people find the mask uncomfortable, though, so they don’t use it regularly. Exercise may be a natural alternative nut there’s also a micro CPAP option that’s worth considering.
In one study, people with sleep apnea participated in an exercise program by walking briskly for 30 minutes per day. On average, they had a 25 percent reduction in their sleep apnea, but the control group saw their sleep apnea worsen. This reduction was without weight loss, too. If you lose weight as a result of your exercising, there will be less pressure on your neck and throat, and your sleep apnea could improve even more. Or as an alternative, you can also look at getting yourself a sleep apnea mouthpiece.
Tips for Exercising for Better Sleep
Any exercise routine should help you get better sleep. The general recommendation is 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This could be brisk walking, jogging, swimming, strength training, or any other exercise that increases your heart rate or helps you build muscle.
While there are many benefits of exercising, keep in mind that overexerting yourself could actually worsen your sleep. Over-exercising will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. It will be hard to physically relax after over-exercising, so you should be careful.
The time of day that you exercise can make a difference, too. Morning and afternoon workouts seem to be best for improving sleep quality because they give your body plenty of time to calm down. Afternoon workouts might even be better than morning workouts because exercise raises your body temperature for several hours. A decrease in body temperature is a signal that it’s time to go to bed, so as your body cools down from the afternoon workout, it may be the perfect timing to start feeling sleepy. If you prefer to exercise in the evening, try to stick to gentle exercises like yoga or stretching.
Exercise has countless benefits for your body. It can help you relax, sleep better, and feel more energized during the day. You only have to take 30 minutes out of your day to work out, and you don’t have to buy equipment or a gym membership if you don’t want to. The sleep benefits will be noticeable right away. You should consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine, especially if you have existing physical health issues, but virtually everyone can benefit from some moderate daily exercise.