Improving Quality of Sleep Through Exercise

Improving Quality of Sleep Through Exercise

A study by the National Institute on Aging found that regular exercise can reduce the time it takes for adults to fall asleep by as much as fourteen percent. Exercise routine that works for you can greatly improve not only the time it takes to drift off, but also the overall quality of sleep. So, how exactly can exercise improve sleep, and make you feel more rested throughout the day?

Exercise strengthens circadian rhythms

Many aspects of daily modern life can have an effect on the quality of our sleep.  Making positive lifestyle changes can be the most effective way to improve how well we sleep, particularly when it comes to our exercise routine.  Over time, participating in regular exercise can decrease insomnia as well as symptoms of sleep apnea, and increases the amount of time spent in the deepest and most restorative sleep.  But more importantly, exercise strengthens circadian rhythms, making you feel more alert during the day, which in turn makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Exercise also helps in reducing stress levels, which is key in getting good sleep.  However, exercise does not improve sleep right away.  It may take weeks or even months of regular exercise for you to begin to see improvements in sleep quality, so be patient.

Best Types of Exercise for Sleep

Although activity as light as walking for ten minutes a day may make a minor improvement on sleep, more intense and vigorous exercise will have the most significant effect.  Aerobic exercise, such as running, walking or bike riding as many as four times per week shows the best effect on sleep, when compared with other types of exercise.   More gentle exercise, such as yoga and stretching is helpful in relaxing the body, reducing stress and focusing the attention away from past stressors from the day.

Best Time to Exercise for Improved Sleep

Exercise causes an increase in metabolism and body temperature, as well as a spike in cortisol levels.  Although these functions are normal and healthy, the adrenaline of vigorous exercise can actually cause problems for sleep if done too close to bedtime.  The best time to complete vigorous workouts for improved sleep is three hours or more before you plan to go to sleep. If you still find that you are having trouble sleeping, try moving your workouts to even earlier in the day to give your body more time to slow down.  Gentle yoga and meditation is the only type of exercise that should be done within three hours of bedtime.

Exercise is a wonderful thing for staying fit, feeling strong, reducing stress, and improving sleep.  Practice introducing the right kinds of exercise into your routine at the right times, and watch your sleep get so much better.

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