Exercise and sleep are two separate natural human activities that have long been studied to understand their benefits. While sleep allows for your body to recharge so that you can maximise your performance the following day, exercise keeps you fit and healthy so that you can complete physical tasks with ease. However, these two functions share a relationship that provides great outcomes for humans.
Both go above and beyond their definitions - while sleep does the obvious and helps your level of alertness, it has a host of other benefits, including reduced risk of certain diseases like heart disease. The same thing can be said about exercise, so put them both together and you’re on the right track to better health. Studies across the world have recognised the benefits that exercise can have on sleep and we’ll take a closer look at some of these below.
Reduce time it takes to fall asleep
Not only does exercise keep you energised throughout the day and mitigate daytime sleepiness, but it can also reduce sleep onset. This is the time it takes for you to fall asleep when you go to bed, which is of course made all the more easier with an OTTY, but by doing exercise too can also cause the time you lay there waiting to fall asleep significantly shorter.
Though, if you do attempt to engage in physical exercise too close to your bedtime, you mind find it has the opposite effect as exercise can increase your feelings of awakeness. That’s why, in order to benefit from better sleep via exercise, it’s best to exercise in the morning or afternoon. This can differ for some people though, so if you find that exercising late at night doesn’t impact the time it takes for you to fall asleep, then by all means, continue to do so.
Increase sleep quantity
While exercise increases your heart rate and allows you to feel energised throughout the day, it works alongside your circadian rhythm, which is essentially your body clock, to prompt tiredness in the evening. This is simply because you have expended energy throughout the day which causes your body to feel restful in the evening. As a result, you may find that you’re able to get to sleep earlier than usual, resulting in a longer night's sleep that reaches the recommended target of 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Reduce stress levels for increased relaxation
Exercise has also been shown to reduce levels of stress which can lead to better sleep because your mind isn’t in overdrive when it comes to your all important shut eye. In particular, calming exercises like Yoga or Pilates have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone, alleviating symptoms of anxiety. Since sleep can be affected by stress as it can cause trouble falling asleep and create disturbed sleep, engaging in exercise can be a great way to relax your mind and body in order to prepare for a good night's rest.
Help those with sleep disorders
Research has also shown that exercise can help with sleep disorders including insomnia and sleep apnea. Since disorders like sleep apnea have been linked to obesity, taking part in exercise has been shown to improve sleep via improvements physically, such as breathing. This means that by tackling your physical health, you’ll also be tackling your sleep health - and who doesn’t want better sleep?
All in all, while exercise is of course promoted for its physical health benefits, it indirectly has an impact on sleep so can improve the quality of your health overall. This is just one of many ways you can promote better sleep and if it brings us one step closer to dreamland, then we’re in.