Whether you’re a hardcore gym junkie or prefer the less strenuous calmness that comes with mastering the downward dog, physical exercises have long been associated with a better quality of life.
Although there is no one type of exercise that is guaranteed to put you to bed, the following 3 activities will go a long way in helping you achieve better quality and quantity of sleep.
Aerobic or Cardio Exercise
Research shows that activities that increase your heart rate such as cycling, swimming and running results in a much quicker sleep latency. Sleep latency is defined as the time taken for you to fall asleep after 'lights out'. Even smaller ten sessions of exercise are considered helpful. For optimal sleep, approximately 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week is recommended.
Muscle building has been proven to help improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the number of times you wake through the night. Additionally, a study from Appalachian State University has shown people fall asleep at almost half the time if they did strength training at 7am compared to those at 1 p.m.1 Spokesperson and author of the study Dr Scott Collier (Ph.D) says “Resistance exercise increases the resting heart rate leading to high blood pressure (temporarily) making it slightly tougher to fall asleep“.3 On a strange twist, the study also found that although it takes longer to fall asleep for those doing strength training later on in the day, the quality of sleep is much better. Collier suggests this may be due to the thermal effect of resistance exercise warming you up before bed.
The calming effect of yoga is especially helpful if the stress is what's keeping you up at night. Insomniacs who practise yoga daily for 8 weeks are likely to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.4 Additionally, a combination of relaxing stretches and controlled breathing in yoga has been known to decrease levels of cortisol- a hormone long associated with stress and depression in the human body.
Alley, J., Mazzochi, J., Smith, C., Morris, D., & Collier, S. (2015). Effects of Resistance Exercise Timing on Sleep Architecture and Nocturnal Blood Pressure. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 29(5), 1378-1385. Supported by Appalachian State University
Benefits of yoga. (2018). Yoga+.
Carlson, C. (2018). Time Your Strength Training and Cardio for Better Sleep!. Shape.
Khalsa, S. (2004). Treatment of Chronic Insomnia with Yoga: A Preliminary Study with Sleep?Wake Diaries. Applied Psychophysiology And Biofeedback, 29(4), 269-278. Supported by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH
National Sleep Foundation. (2018). The best exercises for better sleep. Sleep topics.