As we look to round out our series on the three pillars of health, today we're discussing the invaluable connection between a quality night’s sleep and exercise. A bidirectional relationship, (two-way street), exercise has been linked to promoting better sleep, just as a healthy, well-rested body promotes better physical performance. And it's no surprise! It takes just one night of poor sleep to see how heavily our physical mobility and mental function relies on nailing our zzz's!
Did you know: After failing to achieve the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep for just one night, your body begins to feel:
- More prone to mood swings and irritability
- Less able to concentrate
- More fatigued and weak
- More hungry
With such a tight link to both sleep and movement, it's time to break down how we can sleep better, feel stronger, and get the most out of our bodies every day!
How Exercise Improves Sleep
According to the Sleep Foundation, researchers found that those suffering from insomnia and other critical sleep ailments can improve their sleep by adding exercise into their daily routine. "In as little as four weeks, individuals with chronic insomnia who begin regular exercise fell asleep up to 13 minutes faster and stayed asleep 18 minutes longer. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Exercise helps exhaust our bodies for rest.
A more obvious, but extremely important point, exercise helps tire our bodies out for sleep! In the same way, we might take our puppies for a run before dinner so that they calm into the night, when we exercise, we burn any excess fat and carbs (sugar) that we may have consumed during the day and fatigue our muscles for rest. This healthy feeling of fatigue also helps reduce the effects of restless leg syndrome, which may disrupt your ability to sleep. The more heavy and tired we feel going to bed the better our chances are of falling into Stage N3 (NREM 3).
2. Exercise changes your core body temperature.
Throughout your session, you may feel hot and sweaty as your body heats up to burn calories and fat. Once your workout is complete your body temperature will begin to slowly drop back to normal levels mimicking the natural drop in temperature we experience in our bodies as we calm down to sleep. This also helps trigger the brain to relax, promoting the release of hormones like melatonin and serotonin.
3. Say goodnight to anxiety and depression!
Exercise helps to release a series of happy chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals are directly linked to our perception of pain and can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression which are commonly connected to insomnia.
How Much Exercise Do You Need for a Better Night’s Sleep?
As a general rule, people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day can begin to see an improvement in their sleep quality. If you're more of an extreme HIIT workout person or short on time, 15 minutes of intense movement is adequate too!
It's important to note that timing plays a critical role in the success of your sleep after exercise. This is because exercising too close to bedtime can cause a spike in brain stimulation and keep us up all night! Studies suggest that 7 am serves as the most optimal time to work out to reap the rewards of your natural endorphin boost, kick start digestion for the day and help you sleep better at night. If you're much less of a morning person, as long as you finish exercising at least 90 minutes before bed you'll give your body enough time to unwind and cool down for sleep.
How Sleep Helps with Movement
It would be remiss of us to neglect to highlight the importance that sleep has on movement! Immune system restoration, muscle recovery, skeletal repair and the settling of our nervous system, are just a few of the critical things that occur to our bodies when we sleep well*. This means that a good night’s sleep can directly impact our strength, mobility and endurance for physical activity. If you're struggling to get the right amount of sleep at night, implementing sleeping aids like our Deep Sleep Drops will help promote a night of deep restorative sleep. If you're still finding yourself feeling a little sluggish in the morning, our Morning Drops are another great solution to assist in adding that pep back into your step!
*We regularly emphasise the difference between sleeping and sleeping well as the duration of time you spend in bed should not be the measure of your sleep quality. If you're unsure of how well you're sleeping, you can begin tracking your sleep with a wide range of monitoring devices including smartwatches and rings.
You can start considering your sleep quality with our simple Sleep Quiz, designed to encourage you to consider your nighttime patterns and work closure to finding positive sleep solutions.
Exercises For Better Sleep
We're going to end this entry with a few of our favourite sleep-promoting exercises with variations for both am and pm trainers!
HIIT Workouts: A 15 minute HIIT workout helps produce many of the rich health benefits that other forms of exercise do in a shorter timeframe. HIIT increases your heart rate and burns body fat and sugar, sweating out any unwanted toxins, it also kick-starts your metabolism for the day ahead and decreases the chance of undigested meals sitting in your belly at night, (goodbye bloating, cramps and discomfort!). A more extreme style of training it's best to leave HIIT sessions for the AM and allow your body to naturally calm down throughout the day.
Recommended time: 15 minutes
Running: Like HIIT, running accelerates our heart rate and helps promote the healthy burning of calories. Running also serves as a great opportunity to get outside and embrace that early morning vitamin D which helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
Recommended time: 30 minutes (jogging) 15 minutes (sprints)
Resistance Training: In addition to shaping a strong body capable of more endurance, a recent study suggests that resistance training performed at least three times per week in the morning can improve the sleep of older participants. The same study suggested that this could be linked to the improvement of both muscles and skeletal quality, lowering the sensation of joint and muscle pain at night.
Recommended time: 30-45 minutes
Traditional Yoga: The ultimate exercise for sleep, yoga helps improve strength, flexibly, and calms the mind. It helps promote steady breathing and as a form of flowing meditation can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression! 55% of those that commit to regular yoga have reported improved sleep and over 85% reduced stress.
Recommended time: 30-45 minutes
Meditation and stretching: Combining meditation and held stretches is another great way to move your body in a low impact style, promoting mindfulness and a calm state ready for bed. While you don't encounter the same peak in heart rate, stretching muscles and holding poses still works to strengthen and stabilise your body which helps eliminate restlessness and disruptive body pains. This style of flow is also commonly known as yin or restorative yoga.
Recommended time: 45-60 minutes
Don't forget your environment! A healthy movement plan and unwind is only one-third of your sleep journey. Consider your nutrition and make sure your sleep environment is a positive one. You can help maintain a low temperature after exercise with our range of silk pillowcases and consider sleeping props such as an aromatic diffuser, or blackout sleeping mask to help set the mood at night!