Many people struggle to get enough good quality sleep. Not only does it make us tired the next day, but in the long run, poor sleep can actually have a negative effect on other aspects of our health and well-being.
There’s no shortage of things people are told they can do to help them sleep better, whether it’s taking a hot bath at night or ditching their phones a few hours before bed.
But one of the most common tips for people struggling to get a good night’s sleep is to exercise regularly. And according to research, this is actually very good advice.
For example, a 2015 meta-analysis that reviewed all current research on sleep quality, duration, and exercise, showed that short-term, regular exercise (a few sessions per week) can lead to a better sleep.
This means that even a single exercise session can be enough to improve the quality and duration of sleep.
Research also shows us what types of exercise can help improve sleep. Regular aerobic exercise, for example, helps people fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and feel more rested the next morning.
This was true for many types of aerobic exercise, such as cycling, running, and even brisk walking.
Even a single 30-minute aerobic exercise session can improve several aspects of sleep, but not to the same extent as regular aerobic exercise.
But, it has still been shown to improve sleep duration, decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, and increase sleep efficiency (the percentage of time spent in bed actually asleep). Higher sleep efficiency indicates better sleep quality.
Research on resistance exercise (such as weight lifting) and its effects on sleep is more limited. But from the small number of studies that have been conducted, it appears that resistance exercise can also improve sleep.
Studies have shown that people who do resistance exercise regularly (about three sessions per week) have better subjective sleep quality. Just thinking you’re getting good quality sleep can affect your performance throughout the day.
Regular resistance training can also help people with insomnia fall asleep faster and increase sleep efficiency. However, there is still very little research in this area, so we have to be careful before drawing conclusions.
The good news is that the benefits of exercise for sleep seem to work for everyone, regardless of your age or if you have certain sleep disorders (like insomnia or sleep apnea).
The influence of exercise
While the research is clear that exercise can improve our sleep, scientists still don’t know exactly how it does it – although they do have a few theories.
Our body’s sleep-wake cycle follows a period of approximately 24 hours, which is controlled by an internal “clock” in the body.
As part of this cycle, a hormone called melatonin is released in the evening, which helps us feel tired. Exercising during the day can lead to an earlier release of melatonin at night, which may explain why people who exercise fall asleep faster.
Exercise also increases our core body temperature. But when we finish a workout, our core body temperature begins to return to normal.
A drop in core body temperature can also help us fall asleep. This may explain why evening exercise may actually help some people sleep better that night, contrary to popular belief.
Exercise may also lead to better sleep due to its positive effects on mood and mental health, both of which may be associated with sleep quality. During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins, which improve mood.
Regular exercise can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The positive effect of exercise on mood and mental health may therefore help people fall asleep more easily.
Although more research is still needed to determine exactly why different types of exercise affect many different aspects of our sleep, it is clear that exercise can benefit sleep.
Just 30-60 minutes of exercise a day can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep at night, and wake up feeling more rested the next morning.
Although just one workout can improve your sleep, exercising regularly is likely to improve your sleep even more.
Since so many types of exercise are linked to improving sleep, all you have to do is pick a workout you enjoy, whether it’s running, swimming, lifting weights, or even just going for a walk. fast.
Emma Sweeney, Lecturer in Exercise, Nutrition and Health, Nottingham Trent University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.