Last weekend was the London Marathon! Congratulations to everyone who took part! Whether marathons are your thing or whether you prefer your exercise to be a little less intense, there is a strong relationship between exercise and sleep. Not only do you need to make sure you get enough sleep before you exercise (especially if you’re planning a marathon!) but regular exercise can help you to sleep better. Along with a balanced diet, these are the most important factors in maintaining your health.
Studies have found that over 60% of people have a better night’s sleep after exercising during the day. It’s clear why you should make sure you’re well-rested before exercising, but how can exercise help you to sleep better?
Exercise can relieve stress
Alongside a worn-out mattress and too much noise and light, tossing and turning because of stress is a very common cause of sleep disturbance. Exercise is a fantastic way to destress, lift your mood, and take your mind off worries, all of which contribute to a better night’s sleep.
Exercise can tire you out
Obviously, though not necessarily in the way that you think. In fact, exercising right before you go to bed will keep you awake, as it raises your heart rate and body temperature. But exercising in the late afternoon/early evening means that your body temperature and heart rate will start to drop down again before you go to bed, which tells your body that it’s time to go to sleep. There’s also evidence to suggest that people who exercise regularly get a better quality of sleep than people who don’t.
Exercise can regulate your circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Throwing off your circadian rhythm can make you feel more tired or alert at odd times — it’s this that is responsible for things like jet lag. A study in 2012 showed that exercising in the afternoon can positively affect your circadian rhythm. In the study, mice that exercised at our equivalent of midday showed the biggest improvement in circadian rhythm.
Exercise will make you feel more alert during the day
Of course, the flipside of an improved circadian rhythm and better sleep at night is that you feel more well-rested and alert during the day. And just as you shouldn’t exercise right before bed, you should try doing a few minutes of exercise in the morning, as it’s great for warming you up, raising your heart rate, and shaking off sleepiness.
You don’t need to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits of exercise, both sleep-related and not, so why not add a morning or evening workout into your daily routine?