Getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise are two of the most essential aspects of a healthy life. A question that interests a lot of fitness fans is how does their exercise routine relate to sleep patterns?
Well, the good news is that getting sweaty every day does wonders for how well we sleep. Nothing helps someone drop off quickly and sleep soundly like being genuinely body tired when their head hits the pillow.
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 83% of individuals reported sleeping better when they exercised, even if that exercise was late at night, compared to when they didn’t exercise at all.
This fact is why exercise, is often suggested to insomniacs as non-pharmacological manner of controlling their condition. In one experiment after working out for just four months, insomniacs found themselves sleeping a whopping 85 more minutes a night. For the chronically sleep-deprived, that’s a life changing amount of shuteye.
So, if you’re doing any exercise at all, no matter what time of day, you’re in a better position than the couch potato nextdoor. Yay!
Sleep and weights
Despite what we said above, the timing of our workout and what form of exercise we’re engaged in does play a role in the quality of our sleep.
According to a fascinating piece of research conducted by the Appalachian State University, lifters who hit the gym early in the day, say at 7am, fell asleep faster than those who worked out in the afternoon or early evening. And they especially fell asleep faster than non non-exercisers.
The same study found that lifters who pumped iron later in the evening, at around 7pm took a little longer to drop off but slept more consistently throughout the night than anyone else, including early lifters.
So, what this study seems to suggest is that if you’re an individual who has issues with waking throughout the night then an evening gym session might be the solution. But if you have problems dropping off, a morning session might be the way to go.
Chief author of the study researcher Scott R. Collier believes that if you’re getting up early to lift at 7am you’re likely altering your sleep cycle slightly which may account for the ability to nod off earlier in the evening. He also hypothesis that when it comes to the late lifting and sound sleeping, it could be that the muscle fatigue combined with the huge increases in body heat that lifting weights causes can help you slumber solidly.
Sleep and yoga
An evening yoga practice can do wonders for your ability to sleep. Traditional yoga styles such as Hatha and Sivananda focus heavily on breathing and relaxation in addition to the obvious stretching. This combination gives your body a unique workout, one in which your body becomes tired but your breathing and heart rate both drop. Which makes it an ideal form of exercise to do before bed.
Other forms of yoga such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, also known as the power yogas, however often subject the body to a more strenuous workout. This form of workout is one more similar to that of an aerobics class.
For the majority of individuals this will continue to have a positive impact on sleep. However for a small minority doing too much cardio in the evening will lead to too much adrenaline in the system and an overactive brain. If you feel you’re one of these people then giving yourself an hour or two between your class and bed should be sufficient.
If after all this exercise you’re still struggling to find a little shuteye well then it might not be your fitness regime that is to blame, check out this great resource to help you diagnose your sleeping woes.
Experiment on yourself
Everybody is different, meaning every body is different. There is no such thing as an average human meaning what works for one might work for another The trick is run your own tests. Try something for a week, then try something different the next week. When you wake up simply make a note of how well you slept. Or if you are a bit more technically minded and want to science this, get yourself a sleep tracker, there a lot of the little gadgets out there.
At the end of the week compare how well you slept against the previous week. Adjust your routine and test again. Eventually you will come to an evidence-based decision on the best time to exercise in relation to sleep.
Well, my fitness loving friends that’s it! The good news is that if you’re exercising at all you’re doing wonders for your sleep. Everything else is just a matter tweaking the schedule until you get it right. Keep up the good work!