Exercise is important for good sleep, no matter what age you are. However, the type of exercise may vary depending on age.
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The general concept is that regular exercise can improve our body shape, muscle strength, heart health, and energy levels. But regular physical activity with a schedule can also reduce insomnia and improve deep sleep. Research shows that just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as jogging, swimming, or walking, can help you fall asleep faster and experience sleep better.
Besides, sleep can be improved after just a few days of exercise, and it can be improved more by regular exercise. Below, we clearly outline the effects of physical activity on the human body and why it is appropriate to improve nighttime sleep.
How Can Regular Exercise Affect Your Sleep?
Sleep is also improved by making exercise a part of your daily life to improve your physical and mental health. These benefits will be discussed below.
Fall Asleep Faster
One link between exercise and sleep involves body temperature. Throughout the day, our body temperature fluctuates slightly.
Exercise raises the body’s core temperature and alertness. After that, the body temperature slowly drops throughout the day, and by the time you go to bed you are naturally tired which makes you fall asleep early.
Whether you first exercise in the morning or the afternoon, you will still benefit. However, exercising just before going to bed can alert the body and prevent sleep. So it is best to exercise at least 2 hours before going to bed.
Increase Deep Sleep
Exercise increases brain waves, total sleep time, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which leads to deeper and more relaxed rest. When you spend more time in deep sleep (Phase 3 and REM), doing so gives you more healing, the delta’s slow waves clear the brain. Important information is stored in long-term memory, and HGH (Human Growth Hormone) works to restore and rebuild muscles. Remember that short sleep periods deprive your body of these essential benefits.
One reason for the increased adenosine during physical activity seems to be that exercise can improve deep sleep. Adenosine is an important component of a natural sleep-wake cycle. When adenosine builds up in the body, it slowly causes cell activity that leads to drowsiness and helps us fall asleep faster.
Improve Sleep Duration
Exercise requires energy. When you exercise, your body releases more energy, and naturally, the body gets tired by exercising, which makes it easier to fall asleep at bedtime. After 16 weeks of moderate aerobic activity, there is evidence to improve sleep duration by up to 2 hours.
To get long-term, better quality sleep, a regular workout routine is essential. However, you do not have to be strenuous to get these benefits.
Studies show that patients enjoyed longer periods of sleep, regardless of the severity of physical activity. But there was a difference in consistency in physical activity, and most sleepers experienced a gradual improvement between 4 weeks of experience and 16 weeks.
Alleviate Stress and Anxiety
Stress and sleep are intertwined. When we lose sleep, we may find it difficult to control our breathing and blood pressure — forcing us to react to everyday stressors in unhealthy ways. As well, stress can lead to awareness and racing thoughts.
A flood of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body keeps the heart and brain activity going, which prevents sleep and rest. Unfortunately, this is very common and often causes a vicious cycle. While stress can cause sleep deprivation, sleep deprivation can increase anxiety, which makes it difficult to handle daily affairs.
Exercise can help to come out of this cycle by releasing endorphins. Endorphins stimulate opioid receptors that reduce pain and increase feelings of good health.
When you do physical activity, endorphins are released into the body, which gradually regulates cortisol, adrenaline levels, and mood. Stretching exercises can help lower the nervous system and blood pressure, which can improve both emotional stability and stress management.
Relieve Chronic Sleep Disorders
Exercise can also help improve the symptoms of sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Experts believe that an increase in oxygen consumption during exercise may improve heart and lung function, both of which may make breathing more comfortable during sleep.
Moderate exercise can also play a role in reducing the pain associated with restless leg syndrome. Physical activity increases blood flow to the legs. In addition, the production of dopamine that accompanies work can reduce pain and discomfort.
How Much Sleep Do You Need For Better Sleep?
The amount and type of exercise that is right for you will depend on your age, current level of physical activity, and overall health. However, most healthy adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
According to the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense activity every week.
Adults over the age of 65 should also aim for 150 minutes each week. However, they should keep in mind their physical condition. Walking is a low-risk activity for the elderly and offers the same benefits as most moderate aerobic exercises.
When Should I Exercise?
Exercise affects everyone differently, so you need to understand your body. Some people find that exercising close to bedtime increases heart rate and makes the mind more active. But others find it more appropriate to relax in the evening than to exercise. It all depends on what is good for you.
In general, exercising in the morning or the afternoon has the greatest benefits in promoting sleep. As the core body temperature rises during exercise, you feel more energized after exercising. Therefore, the body needs time (at least 2 hours) to cool down before trying to sleep.
Exercise for Better Sleep was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.