By adopting an active lifestyle, you can improve your cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength and bone density, and reduce stress and muscle tension. Exercise helps to decrease stress on the body both physically and mentally, and the benefits can be felt while you are active throughout the day and at rest during the night. Just twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week may help you to fall asleep faster and experience a deeper, more restful slumber.
The National Sleep Foundation recently completed a poll to determine the relationship between sleep quality and physical activity. The data collected from the 2013 Sleep in America poll showed that 83 percent of those who categorized themselves as vigorous exercisers reported having a very good or fairly good overall sleep quality, compared to only 56 percent of non-exercisers. They rarely reported symptoms of insomnia and were twice as likely to report having a good night’s sleep on all or most days of the week. On average, vigorous exercisers took less time to fall asleep, reported better overall health, and needed less caffeinated beverages and sleep aids to help them control their energy levels and sleeping habits (NSF, 2013).
Best Time to Workout
The body is constantly working to regulate internal conditions, such as blood pressure, body temperature, and hormone balance. All of these conditions fluctuate throughout the day, and are programmed to make us gradually more tired the longer that we are awake. Our body temperature naturally rises during the day and falls slightly at night, which has a powerful influence over our ability to sleep soundly. Intense exercise raises body temperature for up to five hours, which may make it more difficult to fall asleep if you are exercising right before bed. When performed late in the afternoon or early evening, vigorous aerobic exercise will allow your body temperature to naturally fall around the same time you are getting ready for bed, promoting a more restful sleep (NSF, 2006, 2009).
Prepare Your Sleep Space
Your bedroom should be a sanctuary, allowing you to escape into a quiet, dark and cool environment when you are ready to fall asleep and recharge from a stressful day. Minimize noise distractions and make sure that your mattress and pillows are not detracting from your ability to wake up feeling refreshed. Finally, avoid bringing work assignments, unpaid bills, or your laptop to bed with you, so that your body can naturally associate your bedroom with sleep and relaxation. Before getting into bed, make a list of any worries or unfinished business from the day, and let yourself fall asleep knowing that everything can be dealt with once you get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and exercise are key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Set a schedule for yourself that allows you to fall asleep and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. If you are looking for deeper, more restful slumber, vigorous aerobic exercise late in the afternoon will allow your body adequate time to cool down before bedtime. Light stretching and deep breathing exercises may also help you to decrease muscle tension and prepare your body for sleep, but avoid any overly stimulating activity late in the evening.
Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services. She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.