Exercise and sleep
A lack of sleep can reduce your quality life in many ways, and is associated with poor physical and mental performance.
One of the most well established methods to promote healthy sleep is to engage in regular exercise.
Exercise may help you to feel physically tired at night, making it easier to fall asleep, and promote a more restful sleep. It may also you to unwind mentally, improving stress management and reducing anxiety.
READ MORE: Too tired to exercise?
But what types of exercise are best to help you sleep better?
At the recent annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania presented their findings
for a large study examining the connection between activity patterns and sleep cycles.
When compared to no activity at all, exercises such as walking, aerobics, cycling, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, and yoga and Pilates were all associated with better sleep habits. On the other hand, people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep.
“Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising,” said lead author Michael Grandner.
“Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf. It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep – we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”
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Exercise for a better night’s sleep
Choose your activity wisely
Exercises such as walking, aerobics, cycling, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, yoga and Pilates have all been shown to promote sleep. Make sure to incorporate them into your exercise program
Choose more intense activities earlier in the day
More purposeful exercises are thought to be most effective at improving sleep habits. If you have been training consistently for at least a month or two, include more interval training into your exercise routine. However, avoid interval training for at least 2 hours before bed time, as you may still feel too revved up to fall asleep
Choose lighter activities close to bed time
Choose activities that help you unwind later in the day, such as walking or gardening. Yoga and Pilates incorporate breathing and core focus throughout, helping to distract your mind from stressful or worrying thoughts, and ease the transition into a restful state
Experiment to see what works best
Individuals may respond differently to various types of exercise and their impact on sleep. Experiment with the type, time of day, and intensity of exercise to see what works best for you and your sleep routine
Get outside during daylight hours
Go for a walk, bike ride or run. This increases your exposure to bright light (sunlight), which may help to regulate your natural body-clock