The Connection Between Exercise and Sleep

We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and its effect on our mood, energy, and productivity. Along with food and water, sleep is one of our primary needs but can be often overlooked. Good sleeping patterns have been shown to improve mood, mental health, overall wellbeing, and protect from illness and disease. So how can exercise help you with your sleeping habits?

Studies have shown that physical activity increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep, the most restorative phase of the sleep cycle. Exercise has also shown to increase the duration of our sleep, this was seen in all population groups, but most benefit to older populations.

The most common reason we struggle to fall asleep is due to anxiety or stress. This may be us overthinking, worrying about work or what you need to do the following day. Multiple studies have shown regular exercise can reduce stress levels by reducing the body’s cortisol levels. This allows us to fall asleep faster and be less restless throughout the night.

Up to 15% of adults suffer from insomnia, which is defined as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep multiple times a week. Studies have shown that a 4 week exercise program can improve sleep patterns, falling asleep 13 minutes faster and staying asleep for 18 minutes longer than those who do no exercise. Researchers believe this is due to the effect that exercise has on the body’s core temperature. When your body cools down after exercise it sends signals to the brain that it is time to rest and sleep. They also hypothesize that exercise may realign body clocks by readjusting your circadian rhythm.

Adults should be aiming for 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week to see the desired effects.

What time of day should you exercise? The best time is the time that suits you, when you’ve got energy and availability. One myth we want to bust is the time of day that you exercise. Previously it was thought that exercising at night negatively impacts sleeping patterns. However, it has recently been proven that exercising at night time has no negative impact on your sleep regardless of type or intensity, so no excuses to get that after work workout done! If you’re new to exercise it is best to start slow and gradually build to these levels. If you’re not sure where to start, chat to our exercise physiologist or physio for some guidance.

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