Exercise is key to our overall health, but how can you use fitness to promote a healthy sleep pattern?
Both regular exercise and a good sleep pattern are vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. But while both are important on their own, it’s also important to understand how they impact each other.
You may have heard that exercising in the morning can boost your energy levels, or that exercising late at night can inhibit your sleep quality. We’re going to take a closer look at this vital relationship to see how you can use exercise to help you feel focused through the day and ready for rest when evening rolls around.
How much exercise do you need?
Your exercise needs will depend largely on your physical fitness, age and other factors, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week – or 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
They also suggest 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week as an alternative. Quality sleep can improve your fitness performance, and the National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
Different exercises are best for different times of day
Not only can sleep improve your exercise performance, but exercise can also help you sleep better. You should determine what time works best for you and your schedule in terms of fitting in a workout, but there are certain factors you should consider for different times of day.
Mornings are a great time to exercise, as your body will release endorphins will help to improve your mood and boost your energy levels. Exercising outdoors has the added benefit of exposing you to sunlight, supporting your body’s circadian rhythm. Studies have even found that those partaking in early morning aerobic sessions spent more time in deep sleep when compared to afternoon workouts.
Meanwhile, exercising in the afternoon or evening has received a bad reputation in the past for negatively impacting sleep quality, but recent research suggests that afternoon and evening exercise doesn’t affect your sleep as long as it occurs 90 minutes before bedtime. Afternoon is also thought to be the time when athletes experience their peak performance.
High intensity exercise just before bed isn’t a great idea, but low level fitness can actually benefit your sleep quality if done just before bed. This includes Pilates, yoga, stretching and relaxation exercises to lower your heart rate and body temperature.
So when is the best time to workout?
Aerobic or high intensity exercise increases your heart rate and your body temperature and releases endorphins. While these are all beneficial for your health, they may not be conductive for your bedtime routine if done just before you turn in.
Your body needs time to unwind and cool down, and this is thought to take at least 90 minutes. So as long as you give your body that 90 minutes to cool down after a workout before going to sleep, you can exercise at any time. Decide for yourself what time works best for your fitness routine, as this will encourage you to stick with it in the long run.