Exercise & Sleep
Sweet Dreams are Made of This
We know that exercise and sleep are closely connected, and that regular exercise will help improve sleep problems. However, that isn’t where the relationship between these two ends. The amount and quality of sleep you get on any given night has a significant impact on the quality of your workout the following day. It’s an intricate sleep-exercise (or is it exercise-sleep?) cycle that requires careful balance in order for it to work, and for you to enjoy the health and fitness benefits that inevitably come from regular exercise, as well as a good and solid night’s sleep.
Sleep Influences Exercise
Insomnia is a well-known condition that, thanks to movies and television, doesn’t really require much explanation. However, what many people don’t know about this stealthy sleep thief is that it doesn’t only apply to extended hours of wakefulness at night. Rather, insomnia also includes restless or troubled sleep patterns, waking up too early in the morning, or waking up feeling like you haven’t slept at all (even though you managed to get in a few hours).
This kind of sleep deprivation has a huge impact on the mind and body the following day, and for longer if the lack of sleep continues. People who don’t get enough good sleep tend to wake the next day feeling irritable, and have a sense of sluggishness and fatigue about them throughout the day. Concentration is affected and even their immune systems take a dip, leaving them susceptible to illness.
With regard to exercise – energy levels will sink as low as motivation levels, which will either lead to exercise being skipped completely, or followed through in a half-hearted manner. Several studies have shown that gym workout sessions are considerably shorter (if they go at all) among people who suffer from lack of sleep the night before. Most people experience a boost of energy in the afternoons or late evenings, and this is the best time for athletic training. However, sleep deprivation replaces this usual time of feeling energized with fatigue, and makes muscle and tissue more prone to injury. And this is just one night of poor sleep!
But don’t lose heart – consistency is the shovel that will get you out of this hole. One short workout session provides an instant lift to your mood and relieves stress, which means you’ll end up feeling a little better. It should be your goal to complete one short session every day, because once regular exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore, it’ll be easier to implement gradual increases to develop a full-on regimen.
Exercise Influences Sleep
Which brings us to the flip side of the coin – the way in which exercise affects your body to bring about the good kind of sleep. Which is what, you might ask? Sleep is considered quality when it enters a deep state for an extended period of time. Different people require varying amounts of deep sleep, but the rule of thumb is between 6-8 hours for an adult. Deep sleep is when the body repairs itself and refills its energy stores. It is the kind of sleep that leaves you rested and restored once you wake up. The more energy you use during the day, the better you’ll sleep at night. This is where exercise comes in.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve the quality and duration of sleep, even in people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Maybe establish a routine of taking gym fitness classes a few times a week, or spend a few minutes each morning going for a light run or swim. This will work to reduce stress levels, as well as relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, which leaves the mind peaceful enough for a good night’s sleep. The energy exerted during exercise will take care of tiring the body out for the same.
The kind of exercise and the time you do it is an important factor. It is advised to stick to moderate-intensity aerobic workouts, like brisk walks, swimming, light jogging, or cycling. As little as 10 minutes each day is enough to make a difference. What it does is keep you fresh and alert during the day, and sleepy at night. It’s best to try and get to your workouts in the morning, because exercise at night could end up having the reverse effect – energizing you so much you have trouble sleeping. Yoga is an exception to the rule, where a few good stretches will help poise your body and mind for a restful night.