Have you ever noticed how some nights you may fall asleep in a few seconds and you are out like a light and others you are wide awake and can’t stop your mind from wandering onto every last thing on your to-do list? How can this be?
Getting asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested (or not as it sometimes seems) are complex multifactorial issues. One thing is for certain though, if you exercise and do it regularly, according to research, you are more likely to fall asleep faster (up to 13 min faster) and stay asleep longer (up to 18 minutes longer).
In fact, studies have shown that exercise can be just as effective as anti-insomnia medications because exercise can mimic the core temperature changes that you get just as you fall asleep; almost like training your body to fall asleep more efficiently.
Other studies include the mitigation of anxiety and depression symptoms synonymous with poor sleep quality and fixing the circadian rhythm that determines how quickly you fall asleep. Even running can actually boost the sleep-regulating serotonin hormone! Okay, so now you must be sold on the merits of exercise in improving sleep health, but how much is enough? More research needs to be done but so far being consistent with your exercise is important i.e. most days of the week. As well, moderate-intensity exercise or 50-85% of your maximum heart rate (11-13 out of 20 on your perceived exertion) is recommended. Examples include very brisk walking (~4 mph), light biking (10-12 mph), rigorous housecleaning, or doubles tennis or badminton to name just a few. However, exercising too close to bedtime can be counterproductive to sleep health i.e. within 2 hours. Your best bet if you want to improve your sleep health is to start a sleep journal noting the exercise you do, the time of day you do it, when you go to bed and how long it took to fall asleep.
Sleep monitoring devices like wearables (Fitbit, Oura etc.) can be useful as well. The results from this study suggest that a device designed for assessment of physical activity and truncal placement can be used to measure sleep duration as reliably as devices designed for wrist use and sleep wake inference.
Alright, now that you know what to do, you just have to execute! If this seems daunting and you need a little motivation, consult your Preventous medical and fitness experts on how to get started and improve your sleep health today!
Certified Personal Trainer