3-Step Exercise Text
Exercising daily but still having trouble falling asleep? The time it takes for stress hormones to decrease following exercise varies from person to person. Try this three-step experiment from MayoClinic.com to determine the best exercise schedule for you:
STEP ONE For two weeks, exercise close to bedtime. Each morning, rate your quality of sleep on a scale of 1 to 10.
STEP TWO For the next two weeks, exercise in the morning or in the early afternoon. Each morning, rate your sleep quality.
STEP THREE For each week, add up your ratings and divide by the total number of days you’ve rated. This will give you an average score for each week.
Your scores can show you how the timing of your exercise affects your sleep so that you can determine the time of day that’s best for you to exercise.
Will Run for ZZZ's
Exercise leads to better, longer sleep
What's good: Vigorous exercise temporarily raises the body temperature as much as two degrees.
For years, we’ve heard about all of the health benefits of regular exercise. Now there’s one more you can add to the list — a good night’s sleep.
Research shows that regular exercise is beneficial for establishing a deep, restful state of sleep. Sound sleep contributes to better health, and increases energy and wakefulness during the day. Regular exercise is shown to deepen sleep in young adults, both those with and without sleep disorders. In addition, several studies show that exercise, both vigorous and alternative, can improve sleep in older adults.
The best time of day for exercise
So, when is the most favorable time of day to exercise to enrich your sleep? Vigorous exercise just before bed does not help promote sleep — it actually has the opposite effect because it acts as a stimulus on overall physiological functioning, speeding up the muscles, heart and brain.
Experts say the best time is at least several hours before you go to sleep. Exercise — especially cardiovascular — raises core body temperature. Even moderate exercise for 20–30 minutes can raise your temperature to a point where it can take a few hours to return to normal. And it turns out that the body gradually becoming cooler is a cue for the body to lapse into sleep. So, exercising about 5–6 hours before bedtime encourages sleep — the drop in body temperature is associated with the onset of sleep — while allowing your heart, muscles and brain enough time before bed to calm down, too.
The best kind of sleep
Exercise has also been found to increase slow-wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep, characterized by delta brain waves. During this stage, the body builds and repairs tissues, and strengthens the immune system. Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly spend more time in slow-wave sleep.
Observing that exercise has been closely associated with better sleep, a University of South Carolina study found that exercise offers a potentially attractive alternative or adjuvant treatment for insomnia. The study’s authors point out that “sleeping pills have a number of adverse side effects and are not recommended for long-term use,” and they conclude that “exercise could be a healthy, safe, inexpensive and simple means of improving sleep.”
A Swiss study on adolescents in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that compared with controls, athletes reported better sleep patterns, including higher sleep quality, shortened sleep onset latency and fewer awakenings after sleep onset, as well as less tiredness and increased concentration during the day. Athletes reported significantly lower anxiety and fewer depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that regular vigorous exercising is positively related to adolescents’ sleep and psychological functioning.
The best type of exercise
So, vigorous exercise improves sleep, but what about less strenuous activities? Can alternative approaches to promoting health that involve stretching or a light physical workout enhance your sleep? Studies published in the journal SLEEP find that increased fitness is associated with improvements in sleep, although the degree of improvement depends on the amount of exercise and time of day it is performed. And one study found that both stretching and exercise interventions improve sleep quality in sedentary, overweight, post menopausal women.
Some reports also suggest that alternative therapies such as yoga and tai chi can effectively address sleep problems such as insomnia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, several studies show that regular meditation practice, alone or with yoga, results in higher blood levels of melatonin, an important regulator of sleep.
All the studies again reinforce that exercise is a proven benefit to your health. Though time of day, type of exercise and consistency make a difference, exercise’s regulatory effect on the quality and quantity of sleep can ultimately make a huge difference on your health and life. After all, people who sleep better, live longer.
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