Exercise and sleep go hand in hand. Any form of sustained physical activity—even as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling—can improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Of course, longer periods of activity can help your body even more. “Have you ever noticed how a long day of work outside or a really tough workout or sports competition just knocks you out at the end of the day? That’s your body craving recovery, and the sleep quality is much better in these situations,” says Andy Coggan, Gold’s Gym fitness expert. “Consistent exercise will help build a pattern of better sleep consistently.”
Quality of rest is important when preparing your body for athletic activity and for recovery afterward — especially for high-intensity training sessions and endurance events.
Exercise and sleep: getting better rest
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, exercising can help by resetting your sleep cycle. Your body temperature rises during your workout. When it drops again, usually a few hours later, it triggers sleepiness.
When you’re trying to use exercise to promote sleep or ease sleep trouble, take note of when you begin to feel tired after a workout and adjust your exercise schedule accordingly. Consistent timing will help you develop and maintain a sleep pattern that is more likely to help you achieve the recommended seven to nine hours per night.
We all know we feel good when we get the right amount of quality sleep. But did you know that if you’re not sleeping well, you’re sabotaging your efforts at the gym?
Here’s what happens during the deep stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep:
- Immune system recharge
- Muscle and bone development
- Tissue repair and regeneration
- Hormone balance
Whether you’re maintaining a daily exercise routine or training for an athletic competition, those four things are critical to physical performance, recovery and injury prevention. When you don’t give your body adequate time for that recovery, you limit what it can do.
“We live in a world that has cut back on sleep in the interest of doing more, but in reality we’re setting ourselves up for a big fall,” Coggan says. “At the lowest level, our efforts in the gym will be stalled, our results will be limited, and our performance will suffer in a big way. Sleeping less than eight hours per day consistently even increases your risk for chronic health issues as you get older. It’s really not worth it.”
Listen to your body. Give yourself the rest you need and you’re more likely to achieve the success you want.