Exercise

5 Exercises To Supercharge Your Sleep

Introduction

Getting adequate sleep and engaging in regular exercises is incredibly important for both your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, sleep disorders and insufficient sleep are very common. According to the CDC, more than a third of American adults report not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

Lack of sleep is linked to many chronic diseases and conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. It can also lead to impaired cognitive function and increased risk of accidents. On the flip side, quality sleep has been associated with better decision making, memory, creativity, immune function, and emotional regulation.

The good news is that exercise can help improve your sleep quality and duration. Regular physical activity helps synchronize your circadian rhythms, reduce anxiety and stress, lower body temperature, and establish healthy sleep routines. In this article, we’ll explore 5 research-backed exercises that can supercharge your ability to fall asleep faster and get deeper, more restorative sleep throughout the night. With some planning and commitment, you can leverage exercise to optimize your sleep and wake up each day feeling refreshed.

Exercise Increases Deep Sleep

Deep sleep, also known as slow wave sleep, is the most restorative stage of sleep. During deep sleep, breathing slows, blood pressure drops, muscles relax, blood supply to muscles increases, and tissue growth and repair occurs. Deep sleep is essential for restoring the mind and body, consolidating memories, regulating metabolism, and boosting immune function.

Research shows that exercise can significantly increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep. In one study, people who exercised for at least 150 minutes per week were 65% less likely to have problems falling asleep and staying asleep than non-exercisers. Exercise causes a significant rise in body temperature, followed by a dramatic drop at night, which triggers the body’s natural sleep initiation mechanisms.

The best types of exercise for deep sleep include aerobic activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. These activities raise the body’s core temperature. Weight training can also help by tiring muscles. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous late-night workouts which may overstimulate the body and make it harder to relax at night. The ideal time to exercise for better sleep is at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Exercise Promotes Circadian Rhythm

Our circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles. This internal clock cues the release of hormones like cortisol and melatonin to make us feel alert during the day and tired at night. Exercise helps strengthen and sync our circadian rhythm so we feel more awake during the day and naturally sleepy at bedtime.

The best time to exercise for sleep is typically in the afternoon or early evening. Exercise raises body temperature and heart rate, which takes around 6 hours to return back to normal pre-exercise levels. Exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down. Aim to finish workouts at least 3 hours before bed so your body has time to cool off and transition into sleep mode. Morning and mid-afternoon workouts are ideal.

Moderate aerobic exercise like a brisk walk, jog, bike ride or light strength training for 30-60 minutes daily helps regulate melatonin and cortisol secretion. This makes it easier for your body to relax at night and have more recuperative deep sleep. Regular exercise leads to falling asleep faster, longer sleep duration and higher quality sleep.

Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Exercising is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and anxiety. When we experience chronic stress or anxiety, it activates the body’s fight-or-flight response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. While this can be useful in genuinely dangerous situations, sustained high levels of these hormones disrupt the body’s natural cycles and impair sleep.

Studies show that regular exercise helps reduce anxiety symptoms and protect against stress-related disorders. Exercise helps by:

  • Releasing endorphins, neurotransmitters that lift mood and promote relaxation
  • Improving self-esteem and resilience
  • Helping distract from worries and negative thoughts
  • Lowering muscle tension that builds up with anxiety

Some of the best exercises for relieving stress and anxiety include:

  • Yoga: Combining physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation, yoga calms the nervous system. Gentle flows, restorative poses, and yin yoga are especially relaxing.
  • Walking: This mild, low-impact exercise releases endorphins and helps clear the mind. Walking outdoors provides the benefits of connecting with nature.
  • Cycling: The rhythmic nature of pedaling a bike helps relieve tension. Mountain biking on nature trails is an immersive experience that quiets worry.
  • Swimming: The combination of deep breathing and rhythmic motions make swimming an ideal stress-reliever. Floating in water has innate calming effects.
  • Tai Chi: These slow, graceful movements are a form of meditative exercise focused on relaxation and balance. The emphasis is on deep breathing and mental clarity.

Including stress-busting exercises like these in your daily routine can improve sleep by lowering anxiety and restoring your body’s natural equilibrium. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning new exercise programs.

Lower Body Temperature

A lower core body temperature is important for falling asleep quickly and getting quality rest. Our bodies are designed to begin dropping in temperature as part of the natural sleep process. When your body temp is lower, it sends signals to the brain that it’s time for bed.

Exercise helps initiate this cooling process so you fall asleep faster. When you work out, your core body temperature rises, then falls as you cool down afterwards. This temperature spike, followed by a dip, primes your body for sleep. Getting in a workout a few hours before bedtime can be beneficial.

However, avoid exercises that cause heavy sweating immediately before bed. Overheating right before sleep makes it harder to drift off. Finish vigorous workouts at least 2-3 hours prior to bed to allow your body temperature to lower naturally. Stick to light yoga, meditation, or stretching in the hour before bed to aid sleep without disrupting your body’s natural cooling process.

Limit Food and Drink Before Bedtime

Consuming heavy meals too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. Food stimulates digestion, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Try to avoid heavy meals starting 2-3 hours before bed. Instead, opt for lighter snacks that are easy to digest if you get hungry at night.

Staying hydrated throughout the day is important, but limit fluid intake 1-2 hours before bedtime. Drinking too many fluids close to bedtime increases the chances you’ll wake up during the night to use the bathroom. Cut off fluid intake 1-2 hours before bed, and be sure to use the bathroom right before getting into bed. This will help minimize middle of the night bathroom trips.

Limiting food and drink before bedtime allows your body to settle down, making it easier to fall asleep and get better quality rest.

Improve Sleep Environment

Creating an optimal sleep environment in your bedroom is crucial for getting better quality sleep. Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, and cool in temperature. Complete darkness allows your brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out any light. Also be sure to eliminate as much noise in the bedroom as possible. This could involve using a white noise machine, earplugs, or soundproofing materials.

In terms of temperature, experts recommend setting your thermostat between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Being too hot or cold can disrupt sleep. Make sure your mattress and bedding are comfortable as well. The right mattress and pillows tailored to your sleeping position can make a big difference in sleep quality. Soft, breathable bed sheets also allow your body temperature to properly regulate overnight. Pay attention to all these environmental factors in your bedroom to create the optimal setup for sound slumber.

Establish a Nightly Routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine helps relax your mind and body and cues your brain that it’s time for sleep. Try to do the same relaxing activities every night before bed to establish a routine.

  • Unwind with calm activities like reading a book, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music. Activities that are overly stimulating like watching exciting TV shows or having intense discussions can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Limit screen time for 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from TV, phones, and computers suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.

Having a soothing pre-bed routine each night signals to your body that it’s time to relax and prepare for rest. Sticking to healthy sleep habits can significantly improve sleep quality.

Consult Your Doctor

If you continue to struggle with poor sleep despite lifestyle changes and sleep hygiene techniques, it’s important to consult your doctor. They can help diagnose and treat any underlying sleep disorders that may be interfering with your ability to get restful sleep.

Some common sleep disorders that could be impacting your sleep include:

  • Insomnia – Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleep apnea – Breathing interruptions during sleep
  • Restless leg syndrome – Uncomfortable sensations and urge to move legs
  • Narcolepsy – Extreme daytime sleepiness

Your doctor may ask you to track your sleep patterns in a sleep diary for a couple weeks. This helps identify any habits, behaviors, or environmental factors that could be addressed.

If warranted, your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram test) to monitor your breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and movements while you sleep. This can help diagnose issues like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and other sleep disorders.

Based on the test results and medical evaluation, your doctor can provide customized treatment recommendations. This may include prescription medications, sleep devices like CPAP machines, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other interventions to get your sleep back on track.

The key is to not ignore ongoing sleep problems. Seeking professional medical advice can help uncover hidden issues leading to your sleep disturbances. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders can vastly improve your ability to get healthy, restorative sleep.

Conclusion

Getting better sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health. The tips outlined in this article can help improve your sleep through exercise. Regular exercise helps promote deeper, more restorative sleep. It also helps maintain healthy circadian rhythms so you fall asleep and wake up at the right times. Exercise reduces anxiety and stress, making it easier to relax at night. It also lowers body temperature which facilitates sleep. Avoiding food and drink before bed, improving your sleep environment, establishing a calming nighttime routine, and consulting your doctor can further enhance sleep.

Putting these tips into practice can provide tremendous benefits. Quality sleep gives you more energy, improves concentration and productivity, enhances mood, strengthens the immune system, and reduces inflammation. Sleep is vital for learning, memory consolidation, and neural regeneration. Exercising for better sleep will make you healthier, happier, and more energized for each new day.

 

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