It has been proven that physical activity improves sleep, and vice versa. While artists and musicians are generally known to be insomniacs and night owls, athletes are known to be hardcore sleepers. Their performance depends on it!
THE SCIENCE OF EXERCISE
Our bodies release growth hormone while we sleep, which stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building, fat burning, and helps our bodies recover.
You know those days when you spend hours doing something labor-intensive, like helping a friend move, or painting the house, or walking around Disney World for 12 hours, and we say out loud, “Wow, I’m gonna sleep well tonight!”? We’re already predicting that spending the day being active is going to help us sleep. And it’s true.
A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY
The best news is it isn’t necessary to paint the entire house every day to sleep well at night. Exercising regularly, even for 10 minutes a day, can improve sleep quality, increase the length of your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and help you fall asleep faster. From my own experience, I know this to be true.
I was inactive most of this past winter. I can blame my surgery in November for part of it, but lack of motivation and below-freezing temperatures can be blamed for the rest. I also coincidentally started having trouble staying asleep at night. I was waking-up every few hours for no reason, and it was puzzling because I had epic sleep hygiene otherwise.
Once the snow was off the ground in the spring, I started walking in the mornings again. It was cold and windy but I bundled up and went out anyway because I missed my morning routine. Then, a few weeks ago, I joined a gym called 30 Minute Hit, which is a Canadian franchise, and started my other favorite workout, kickboxing. It’s only been two weeks but can you guess what happened to my sleep? I started sleeping through the night again! No mystery wake-ups, or very few of them, and according to my Fitbit, I spend more time in the deeper stages of sleep. Working out can improve circadian rhythms, which is our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Exercise promotes daytime alertness and helps us feel sleepy at night. It’s better for us than any synthetic pill, and it’s good for our entire body, not just our sleep.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE WILL IMPROVE SLEEP?
The recommendation from the different health foundations is 30 minutes five days a week, but don’t let that stop you from getting whatever you can get! Any movement is good for you, and if you’re not someone who works out regularly, don’t be afraid to start small until it becomes a habit. It’s not all or nothing! Every little bit helps.
Concentrate more on consistency than duration. If you can move every day, even for 10-15 minutes, that’s great! I’ve found from experience that once you get into the habit of exercise, especially exercise you enjoy, it just gets easier from there.