Which comes first? The energy you need for exercise, or the energy you get from sleep?
For better sleep, you may need to get moving!
Consistent, moderate exercise, like walking, strength training, or cycling, can improve sleep patterns, and it doesn’t need to be a lot. Just ten minutes a day can make a difference.
There are several reasons why exercise contributes to better sleep: lower levels of stress and simply being tired from exercise make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, and increase the amount of time we spend in deep sleep states. Exercise can turn you into a morning person, too, because it raises your body temperature just enough to establish a new sleep/wake cycle. Pull yourself out of bed and into a workout consistently enough, and your body clock can reset itself!
When is the best time to exercise for better sleep? Listen to your body. Pay attention to how your energy fluctuates on days when you exercise in the morning, at midday, or in the evening, and take notes. When do you feel your best? Keep in mind that we are all different, and the perfect time for your partner or friend to exercise may not be the most energizing for you. Studies show that exercising at night doesn’t necessarily interfere with sleep, so if that’s the most consistently available time for you to workout, go for it!
You don’t need to lose sleep trying to decide which exercise is best, either; just about anything will do. Activity that gets your heart rate up counts as exercise, and it’s even better if it brings a smile to your face in the process! (It’s okay if the smile shows up after your workout is complete, too.) While just ten minutes of exercise is beneficial, ideally adults will get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. That’s just over 20 minutes a day, and you don’t even have to do it all at once. A ten-minute walk around the parking lot before and after work could make it easier to, “leave work at work,” and sleep better at night.
When your heart-pumping workout is done, yoga is a great tool for calming down after a busy day and preparing your body for sleep. Deep breathing, slow movements, and relaxing poses give us time for reflection, intentional relaxation, and can cue our minds that we are ready to sleep.
Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand: they each benefit from the other. When you’re in need of an energy boost, you may be able to bypass the nap and find it in a hop, skip, and a jump!
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– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather