Is it just me or does anyone notice they sleep better when they’ve gotten a good workout in that day? The more I move around throughout the day, and especially if I’ve had a good gym session, the better I seem to sleep. This has even been enough to get me to the gym on the days when I want to the least because I know that it will help me have a better night’s sleep. But I didn’t know if this was something that only happened to me, especially because I tend to get anxiety around sleeping (fear of not being able to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, etc etc.). I did some research to see if I was the only one who experiences this, and turns out I’m not crazy after all!
The Science Behind Sleep
Studies actually show that regular physical activity can help you both fall asleep more quickly, as well as improve your overall sleep quality. According to experts at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you experience, which is deep sleep. Other benefits of exercise that you may already be aware of is that it can help stabilize your mood and allow your mind to decompress (AKA why those of who find relief of working out when stressed out). The more relaxed you are the easier time you’ll have falling asleep. Even on your busiest days, making even a little time to get a workout in can help you destress, and lead to a better night’s sleep.
Some people, including myself, have found that if you exercise too close to bedtime, you feel “too awake” when it’s finally time to go to bed. Rule of thumb: finish your workout at least one to two hours before you want to go to bed. Aerobic exercise especially releases endorphins, and this activity in your brain can cause you to feel awake. Getting your workout in a few hours before bedtime allows your brain activity to return to normal levels and wind down. Not only does exercise affect your brain, but it also raises your core body temperature. You want your body to cool down before going to bed. The body starts to cool as early as 30 minutes to 90 minutes post workout.
Know Your Body
Everyone’s different. Maybe exercising close to bed doesn’t tend to affect you. But others may be extra sensitive to this and need to finish their workout more than two hours before bed. It’s important to know your body and listen to your body. Some people need to do cardio to tire themselves out, but you might get the same experience from going to a yoga class or lifting weights. You might want to keep a record or diary of the types of exercise you do, when you’re doing them, and your sleep quality.
The next time you have trouble falling asleep, try getting in a long workout in!
Written by GUADS staff member Emily with contributions from www.hopkinsmedicine.org