Most people know that exercise is a good health habit. However, fitting it into your schedule is often easier said than done. In fact, researchers have found that 80% of American adults don't get enough exercise each week. Not spending enough time exercising has a range of serious health consequences, including increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes type 2, and even certain types of cancer. Unfortunately, failure to make time for exercise also makes it hard for you to get enough sleep at night. This leads to insomnia and sleep deprivation, two serious health problems that can cause or worsen your physical and mental health.
The Connection Between Exercise and a Good Night's Sleep
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These hormones alleviate stress and anxiety that often keep people up at night. As an added benefit, endorphins alleviate pain, pain that could make it hard for you to get to sleep. There is also evidence that exercise may help your body realign its internal clock. When your body clock isn't aligned, you won't feel tired until it's very late at night. Unfortunately, if you go to bed too late, you won't get enough sleep to be properly rested the next day. What's more, when your body is overtired, it's harder than usual to get enough rest, leading to a vicious cycle of feeling overtired yet being unable to fall asleep. As sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker points out, you can’t make up for lost sleep by taking a nap or sleeping in on the . Your body needs to get enough sleep each night to function properly during the day.
Do you battle insomnia and would like to use exercise to help you sleep better at night? Are you out of the habit of exercising regularly but would like to start exercising again in order to avoid sleep-related health problems? If so, these tips can help you get started on the right track.
Pick the Right Time
Dr. Walker explains that there are times when you'll actually want to avoid exercise. He notes that it's best to avoid working out for up to three hours before you go to bed, as exercising too close to your bedtime makes it hard for your brain to wind down so you can go to sleep. Additionally, he recommends spending at least 30 minutes in natural sunlight every single day, as doing so helps regulate your sleep patterns. Getting up half-hour earlier than usual can be a good way to fit in physical exercise, as you'll benefit from getting needed exposure to the sun and your routine won't negatively affect your ability to get to sleep at night. Alternatively, dusk can be a good time to exercise in hot weather as you’ll still benefit from sunlight without getting too hot.
Pick the Right Form of Exercise
The recommended MINIMUM exercise routine for adults is 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. You'll also want to spend at least some of your exercise time doing muscle-strengthening activities such as lifting weights.
If you have a health condition and/or haven't been getting exercise on a regular basis, it's smart to talk to a doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Make sure your doctor knows about any health condition you have and any medications you may be taking. This will enable him or her to offer expert advice on picking the best exercises for you personally. It’s also a good idea to start slow to build muscles and endurance. Trying to do too much, too fast could lead to injury that would make it difficult if not impossible for you to exercise for weeks on end.
Once you know which exercises are safe for you, pick one that you find enjoyable, as this will give you the motivation to set aside time each day for exercise. Jogging and running are great if you enjoy high-impact exercises. They work out your entire body and can be done outdoors in the fresh air and sun. Yoga may be ideal if you can't engage in high-impact exercises. Swimming is yet another great option, especially if you're getting on in years and need a safe form of exercise with no risk of slips and falls. Walking is a good option if you need a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise option. Furthermore, research shows that walking is especially effective in helping to alleviate insomnia.
Other Great Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Exercise plays a key role in making it easy for you to get a good night’s sleep. However, there are also other things you can do to help yourself get to sleep at a good time each night. Avoid any stressful activities for up to three hours before you go to bed. Instead, pick activities that will soothe your brain and prepare it for sleep. Good options include a warm bath, calming book, and a cup of tea before bed. Don’t smoke or drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime, as doing so not only makes it hard for you to go to sleep but also prevents your body from going into a deep sleep.
If you don’t feel comfortable in bed, you may want to invest in a mattress that offers proper support. If you weigh over 130 pounds and/or tend to sleep on your back or stomach, you’ll want a firm or extra-firm mattress to prevent back and joint pain. A good pillow can also make a world of difference by giving your head and neck enough support while you sleep. The right anti-aging pillow is ideal as it not only offers needed support but also prevents wrinkles so you not only feel your best but also look your best the following day. Blackout curtains that keep out the light may also be in order, especially if you have problems with insomnia. Keeping the room dark while you sleep helps your body enter into the deepest stage of sleep. During this stage, your body repairs itself and your immune system is strengthened to prevent sickness.
Exercise is a powerful tool that will help anyone prevent or combat insomnia. Studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis for only four weeks fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than those who don’t get enough exercise. What’s more, people who live an active lifestyle are less likely to develop insomnia as they get on in age, even though insomnia is a common problem for older adults. If you’re not in the habit of exercising on a regular basis, consider the information outlined above and take the steps needed to make exercise part of your daily schedule. Consult a doctor if you need professional advice about your exercise routine, pick a time and form of exercise that works well for you, and then make it happen. You’ll see a noticeable improvement in your physical health, mental well-being, and ability to get a good night’s sleep each night.