Think back to the best night of sleep you’ve had recently. Did you happen to exercise that day? Research shows a strong link between exercise and better sleep. If you want more restful nights, consider adding activity or intensity to your fitness regimen. Even when you're too busy, just 10 minutes in one day can make a significant difference.
How does a fitness regimen help me get better sleep?
Exercise of any kind does wonders for sleep duration and quality. Getting more exercise means you’re tiring yourself out and getting your body ready for sleep at the end of the day. The more fatigued you are, the longer you'll be in deep sleep, the most therapeutic of your sleep stages when your immunity, heart function, and stress control can get a lift.
Regular exercise also helps reduce your stress and anxiety. Stress can interrupt your sleep schedule. Yoga is a good fix for stress-induced sleep problems, and so are strength training and cardio workouts.
If you suffer from chronic insomnia, a fitness regimen might be the solution. Exercise helps alleviate depression and anxiety, which are major contributors to insomnia. Some cases of insomnia come from disruptions in one’s body clock, or circadian rhythms, which exercise can help recalibrate.
What’s the best time of day to do a workout?
Given that most adults need just 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, it’s not hard for most people to fit in time to exercise. The good news is that you don’t have to avoid working out before going to bed, especially if that's the only time you can get in a workout. However, the most important thing is to develop a schedule, for both your sleep and your exercise, and stick to it.
Consider working out in the morning, which can boost your deep sleep phase. However, rigorous exercise too early in the day when your body temperature is low can strain your joints and muscles, increasing your chance of injury. Late afternoon is another good option because your body temperature rises during exercise and then decreases afterward, making you more sleepy. The key is to time your temperature fluctuations so that your body temperature starts dropping soon before you go to bed.
If you’re not sure about the best time to exercise, maybe your chronotype--your biological clock--can give you an idea. When you plan workouts that conflict with your body’s natural schedule, you end up feeling less energy throughout the day. Take this quiz to identify your chronotype and unlock the secret to your inner timetable.
The best time to exercise might depend on your fitness goals. Timing your workout can contribute to better sleep and help you achieve other fitness outcomes, such as maximizing your performance or burning fat. No matter your goals, remember that there can be too much of a good thing. Too much exercise can get in the way of your sleep and even lead to insomnia.
What products should I avoid right before going to bed?
A good fitness regimen won’t help if you use certain products before bedtime. A little milk or a small carbo-loaded snack might be okay, but don't overdo it. A bedtime meal that’s spicy or high in fat will mess with your digestion, causing extra bathroom trips and acid reflex. Most people know that a cup of coffee is a bad idea before bed, but so are chocolate, cola, and some teas, which also have caffeine. Although alcohol can make it easier to nod off, you're not likely to stay asleep. Finally, we all know how important it is to stay hydrated, but water is not your friend at bedtime unless you enjoy getting up to go to the bedroom in the middle of the night.
Other products, such as some prescription and over-the-counter medicines might have caffeine; these include weight-loss supplements, cold medications, and pain relievers. If you feel tempted to take a sleeping pill, remember that it's just a short-term solution; you should consult a doctor if your sleep becomes a problem. Smoking is another bad idea, especially since nicotine is a stimulant. If you smoke, getting better sleep is another reason to quit.
A great night’s sleep doesn’t have to be elusive. Creating the right fitness regimen and timing your workouts to fit your body clock can help you feel rested each day. The right fitness strategies can help you take control of your sleep hygiene for good.