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The Exercise-Sleep Connection

woman sleeping soundly after exercisingGetting enough exercise positively affects your sleep. Not only will you sleep more soundly by exercising earlier in the day, but the duration of your sleep will also improve. Establishing an exercise routine tailored to your body’s internal clock ensures you sleep soundly all night long. Here’s what we’ve learned from the experts at the Sleep Doctor about exercise and sleep.

Exercise Improves Sleep in Several Important Ways

Exercise improves deep sleep, the most restorative sleep phase occurring during the first half of the night. While in deep sleep, your heartbeat and breath slow down as your muscles relax. By exercising regularly, your body spends more time in this important sleep phase, helping to boost immune function, reduce stress, and support cardiac health.

Scheduling a morning, midday, or afternoon workout also increases the amount of time your body spends sleeping. After a moderate workout, your body is tired from exerting energy and requires more time to rest. If you want to improve the quality of your sleep—and get more of it—make sure to squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week!

Quality Sleep and Exercise Reduce Stress

Exercise and sleep help reduce stress, anxiety, and other sleep disorders. Scheduling time for exercise, as little as five minutes, can help decrease stress levels by triggering anti-anxiety responses. Yoga, a popular mind-body exercise, is an excellent option, as it lowers cortisol levels and reduces blood pressure. After a workout, even a short one, your mood can drastically improve. This, in turn, helps you fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly.

If you have trouble with a sleeping disorder, exercise will help. Insomniacs may particularly benefit from aerobic exercise, catching more z’s after getting regular exercise. Obstructive sleep apnea is also thought to decrease with exercise, so why not hit the gym before settling in for the evening? You may just find you sleep a bit more soundly.

Don’t Let Exercise Interfere with Sleep

Be careful, though. Rigorous exercise close to bedtime makes falling asleep difficult, and overtraining can be particularly dangerous. Studies indicate that training rigorously without proper recovery time leads to problems falling asleep. Think twice before busting your butt at the gym too aggressively.

Exercising near bedtime is also unwise because your body will feel more energized, making it difficult to transition to sleep mode. This is due to elevated body temperatures after a workout. Before sleep, your body naturally drops its temperature around afternoon time, making you feel tired. When you exercise before bed, body temperatures rise, making it hard to catch those z’s.

Get Enough Sleep and Exercise Regularly

Getting a good night’s sleep improves your workouts by improving brain and body function, making exercise more effective—and fun! Plus, sleeping well also helps more people stick to their workout routines. Sound sleep improves your workouts, which leads to a continued peaceful sleep. Exercise, then, maintains a symbiotic relationship with sleep and vice versa. Next time you’re looking to improve both your sleep and the effectiveness of your workouts, take good care to invest in both.