Exercising for Better Sleep Update 01/2022

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, regular exercise can benefit most individuals, but what if you have more serious sleep issues? Chronic insomnia affects up to 15% of the adult population and is characterized by regular sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or getting up too early.

How Does Exercise Help Treat Insomnia?

Individuals with chronic insomnia who engage in regular exercise have been proven to fall asleep 13 minutes faster and stay asleep 18 minutes longer in as little as four weeks. As a matter of fact, researchers found that exercise was just as beneficial as hypnotic medicines in alleviating sleeplessness. Several hypotheses have been put out as to why this is the case.

  • Exercise causes changes in your core body temperature. Exercise causes your body’s temperature to rise, and then it immediately returns to its resting state. The dip in temperature is akin to the drop in body temperature that occurs before you go to bed at night to prepare for rest. Similar changes in your body may be a warning to your brain that it’s time to wind down for the night.
  • Exercise relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and despair are frequently accompanied by insomnia. A person’s ability to fall asleep might be hindered by these symptoms, which include anxiety, worry, and stress. Endorphins released during exercise can help alleviate these symptoms and improve sleep quality.
  • Exercise may realign your internal body clock. Some people suffer from insomnia because their internal body clocks are out of whack. Circadian rhythms might be messed up, which can lead to people staying up later than “normal” because they’re weary. Exercise can help people go asleep earlier by resetting their body clock, depending on the time of day. Serotonin (a hormone associated in the sleep-wake cycle) is increased during some forms of exercise, such as running, which may improve the brain’s ability to process serotonin and regulate sleep.

Moderate aerobic exercise has been proven to be the most helpful for relieving insomnia, while experts are still trying to figure out exactly how physical activity impacts sleep. When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, moderate aerobic exercise can help. During deep sleep, your body repairs and replenishes itself, allowing your muscles and tissues to mend and become ready for additional activity in the morning.

Can a Lack of Exercise Induce Insomnia?

Regular physical activity is linked to better sleep, according to numerous research. Individuals of all ages who regularly engage in physical activity had lower rates of insomnia and other sleep-related problems. An additional benefit of regular exercise is a decreased risk of insomnia in old age. This suggests that regular physical activity can help prevent insomnia from developing in the first place.

Sleep deprivation is linked to insomnia, on the other hand. Sleep deprivation is linked to a number of issues, including poor health, stress, old age, unemployment, and lack of regular exercise. Insomnia makes it more difficult to stay active during the day because of the accompanying increase in tiredness and drowsiness.

Can Exercise Cause Insomnia?

The broad consensus is that no. Insomnia may result from exercising too close to bedtime for some people, while others have no problem sleeping soundly thereafter.

Exercising too late in the day can cause insomnia in some people. Exercising not only improves your mood, but the endorphins released as a result of your efforts can also boost your mental alertness. The effects of exercise might last for up to two hours afterward, so it’s best not to do it right before going to sleep.

If you exercise, you may experience a dip in body temperature that aids in sleep 30 to 90 minutes later.

Consider keeping a sleep journal to help you choose the best time to work out. Record the times you exercise, the type of exercise you did, and the length of time you spent doing it. You should avoid anything that could interfere with your sleep or outcomes (such as eating large meals or consuming coffee or alcohol).

What Types of Exercises Are Best For Insomnia?

When it comes to exercising, there are many possibilities, but only moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like walking can help alleviate insomnia. Aerobic exercise, such as jogging or weight lifting, has not been found to improve sleep quality in research studies to date.

One 30-minute workout can help you go asleep faster and stay asleep longer, even if you don’t exercise every day. However, the effects of regular exercise are more pronounced. Study after study has demonstrated that long-term exercise (varying from four to 24 weeks) can help insomniacs get a better night’s rest and improve their sleep quality.

Insomnia-related symptoms can also be alleviated by moderate cardiovascular exercise. It can dramatically reduce pre-sleep anxiety, which in turn reduces the worrisome thoughts that make it difficult to fall asleep for people with comorbid insomnia and anxiety.

Regular, moderate aerobic exercise can lower depressive symptoms and shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after four to six months. You’ll sleep better and wake up feeling more rested as a result. And the best thing is that it made no difference when the study subjects worked out in the morning or the afternoon; they all got the same benefits.

Insomnia sufferers may benefit greatly from regular physical activity. Consult your doctor if you’re having problems sleeping and want to improve your health and quality of life.

The Timing of Exercise May Matter

Gamaldo says that working out right before bed can be a sleep disruptor for certain people. When it comes to mental health, how does exercise impact the body?

  • Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins. Some people’s brains may be stimulated to such an extent by these substances that they are unable to fall asleep. Endorphin levels can be flushed out and “the brain time to settle down” if you exercise at least 1 to 2 hours before bed, she says.
  • Exercise also raises your core body temperature. As Gamaldo puts it, “exercise is like taking a hot shower in the morning for certain people.” A rise in core body temperature serves as a wake-up call to the body clock. There is a significant drop in temperature in the core body after 30 to 90 minutes. The incline aids tiredness by making it easier to fall asleep.

Even so, some people find that the time of day they exercise doesn’t make a difference in their physiological responses. This is true whether they do it in the wee hours of the morning or just before turning in for the night, adds Gamaldo.

She advises, “Know your body and know yourself,” as she says. Patients should exercise, but it should be done in a non-scripted manner by doctors.

How Much Exercise You Need for Better Sleep

Many patients come to Gamaldo with questions about how much exercise they should do to improve their sleep, and how long it would take to see results.

You may notice an improvement in your sleep quality the following day if you engage in 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise. When it comes to results, Gamaldo argues that “months or years” are overrated. In order to improve their sleep, patients shouldn’t feel like they have to train like they’re running the Boston Marathon, according to Dr. Goldstein.

Even while many studies have focused on aerobic activity and sleep, Gamaldo adds that picking a workout you enjoy will help you persist with it. Exercises like weightlifting or yoga that increase heart rate, on the other hand, can stimulate the brain and body’s natural sleep-promoting biochemical processes, according to this expert.

The key, she says, is “being attentive of the timing and whether it seems to impair your capacity to have ideal sleep quality”.

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