You probably already know that exercise benefits your health and well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, these perks include improved mood, weight control, and increased energy and libido. If you’ve ever had a rough night’s sleep, you also understand how much better it feels to get good rest. Good sleep can positively affect our concentration and productivity as well as our overall health.
You probably know that exercise and sleep are good for you. But have you ever wondered about the relationship between these two behaviors? Scientists are still working to figure out the exact nature of the partnership between sleep and exercise, but they do know that it is indeed a working relationship.
We’ve written before about how your daily habits can influence your sleep. Here are some sleep and exercise facts to help you better understand how to play and rest to optimize your health and well-being.
Some Key Sleep and Exercise Facts
An overview of sleep and exercise studies published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine describes the interplay between sleep and exercise as a “bidirectional relationship.” This means that one activity benefits the other. Conversely, lack of sleep can negatively impact whether we exercise, and vice versa. However, a review of current research in the journal Advances in Preventative Medicine found that scientists still don’t completely understand how this relationship works, and more study is needed.
The Sleep Foundation cites research finding that moderate to vigorous exercise can reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, which is known as sleep onset. For people who struggle to fall asleep, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, exercise decreases insomnia to a similar extent as that of sleeping pills. However, more research is needed to directly compare physical exercise to medical treatments for insomnia.
By reducing extra weight gain, exercise can also help decrease the chances of developing obesity-related obstructive sleep apnea. Even if you are overweight, a study cited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that exercise can improve sleep apnea even without weight loss.
The Best Time of Day to Exercise to Get the Best Sleep
Whether nighttime exercise negatively impacts sleep has been debated for years, though surveys indicate that most people don’t work out after 8 p.m.. Research so far seems to indicate that nocturnal workouts may benefit some people and it may keep others awake. However, if you suffer from insomnia, it’s probably a better idea to exercise earlier in the day.
Exercise does raise our core body temperature, which tells the body’s internal clock that it’s time to wake up. According to Johns Hopkins, body temperature starts to drop again 30-90 minutes post-workout. The release of endorphins that exercise produces may also keep some people awake. Because research isn’t yet conclusive about exercising close to bedtime, it’s a good idea to experiment with timing to see what works for you.
How Often to Exercise to Sleep Well
There appears to be a strong link between exercise frequency and sleep duration and quality. The Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America survey found that people who exercised less than once per week were more likely to struggle to fall asleep, sleep for shorter duration, experience poor sleep quality. and struggle falling and staying asleep. These more sedentary subjects were also more likely to have a sleep-related diagnosis, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
Despite the potential negative health impacts related to a sedentary lifestyle, the good news is that you don’t need to do a daily hard-core workout to see a benefit. A little bit of regular moderate exercise a few times a week can go a long way. In fact, one study even found that just one 30-minute session of moderate aerobic exercise can result in deeper sleep that same night.
The Type and Intensity of Exercise to do for Optimal Sleep
It turns out that the type of exercise you do doesn’t affect sleep as much as you might think. Picking something you like can make you more likely to stick with a routine, according to Johns Hopkins. Additionally, more intense workouts don’t necessarily translate to deeper sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you enjoy golfing, doing yoga, or long walks, then consider making them a regular part of your week. These activities may be sufficient to ward off chronic health conditions related to sedentary lifestyles, and they may also help you get better sleep at night.