The Link Between Sleep and Exercise : When it comes to making the most out of your regular exercise you may think that diet is the only other player in the ring. Surprisingly, however, there is another core component you may be ignoring – sleep!
People Sleep Better When They Exercise Regularly
A growing body of evidence is showing not just how exercise positively affects sleep, but that people with sleep disorders like insomnia can actually incorporate exercise into their treatment regimen for more effective outcomes. Routine fitness, around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, has been shown to help boost mood, alleviate stress, bolster circadian rhythms, as well as help tire the body out making sleep even more welcome come bedtime.
A 2013 poll by the National Sleep Foundation also found that self-described “exercisers” were more likely to experience better quality sleep than non-exercisers as well as have a lower risk for sleep apnea. In addition to improved sleep duration and sleep quality, people who exercise regularly are reportedly more attentive during the day too and less likely to experience daytime sleepiness.
Poor Sleep Contributes to Inactivity
So if regular exercise can have a positive effect on how much and how well you sleep, what about the reverse? Is there a bidirectional link between your sleep and how much you exercise? Turns out there is. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that people who slept less and experienced a poorer quality of sleep exercised less because of it. Increased daytime sleepiness, as well as diminished alertness and prolonged muscle soreness from lack of sleep, may negatively contribute to drops in exercise.
Achieve better quality sleep with these quick tips:
- Use a memory foam bed wedge for painless sleeping if you have issues with heartburn, breathing, or nasal blockages
- Set your smartphone to “night mode” or “night shift” so it emits a warmer light (not blue) at night
- Establish bedtime rituals like taking a calming bath, rubbing your feet with lotion, or reading a book to help cue your mind for sleep
- Avoid wearing overly warm pajamas and keep your ambient temperature around a cool 60 to 67° F
- Block excess light from your room by closing your blinds, placing a cloth over bright alarm clocks, and even wearing a sleep mask
Sleep vs. Exercise
For busy moms who are working and wrangling kids all day, oftentimes the last minutes of free time in the day come down to the choice between getting a little extra sleep or squeezing in a real workout. Researchers say that since your body’s circadian rhythm is synced to the cellular recognition of a “biological day and night”, getting up extra early to exercise or staying up late to exercise can actually be counterproductive.
The time in which you sleep aids tissue repair from exercise; therefore, experts recommend that time-strapped parents find small pockets of time throughout the day to exercise and not sacrifice sleep for fitness. This doesn’t mean rushing to and from the gym, but rather incorporating more movement into your day, i.e. running up and down the stairs, doing squats at your standing desk, briskly walking up and down the street when you check the mail or completing a mini yoga session during your lunch break.
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