Getting enough good, quality sleep is vital for being alert, productive and ultimately the very best version of yourself! But there are a lot of factors which impede our ability to get a long, lengthy night's rest. Whether it be stress, chronic pain, poor time management, feeling wide awake in the evening from too much screen time… or just dealing with bouts of insomnia out of the blue! There are loads of factors that can lead us to feel restless and wide awake in bed when we should be sleeping soundly.
One 2021 survey
has illuminated how 36% of UK adults struggle to sleep at least on a weekly basis and that nearly 50% of the UK population have a rough time falling asleep at least once a month. Research has found that 67%
UK adults experience disrupted sleep and overall 16 million people are experiencing insomnia.
Another separate survey found 76-83%
of adults who maintained an exercise regime, whether it be light or more strenuous, had a satisfactory quality of sleep in comparison to those who claimed not to exercise much - dropping to 55%
. Researchers believe there is a connection between how much exercise you’re able to have in each day alongside the quality of slow wave (deep sleep) you’re able to receive.
Exercise can really work well to elevate the symptoms of restless sleep and insomnia. Here’s some tips and exercises to try out for yourself that have been found to promote a wonderful night’s sleep and get your sleep back on track:
Yoga before bed can promote and enhance relaxation
Practicing yoga is an excellent way to get your muscles loose and put you into a meditative, calm state - perfect for hitting the pillow and getting some much-needed sleep! A US study found that 55%
of people who practiced yoga in the evening had a better quality of sleep. So, what particular positions are recommended for improving sleep?
The Cat/Cow, Child’s Pose and Thread The Needle
are great for thoroughly stretching the back, shoulders and back while improving flexibility and practicing deep breathing. Yoga before bed also helps with joint pain, improves circulation, reducing insomnia and even encourages weight loss
Yoga Instructor Maya Magennis explains the body's reaction a bit further: “Yoga before bedtime has benefits at a cellular level, muscular level and deep within your mind. It helps lower cortisol levels, which is the hormone that triggers the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight response. Practicing yoga before bed teaches your body to instead trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest part, so you go to sleep faster and stay asleep.
Aerobic exercises that will support your sleep
It’s been found that incorporating regular aerobic exercises into your workout routine is highly beneficial for securing a good night's sleep, especially in older adults and the elderly
. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins
in the body which would otherwise be stored and create higher levels of activity within the brain that make it harder to fall asleep.
As for which ones to go for or try out, take your pick! Whether it be running, swimming, dancing, cycling, or playing football - whatever appeals to you the most or feel like you could stick with. When you perform cardiovascular exercises, the body's temperature increases
as a result. So, when cooling off afterwards and your temperature decreases back down 30 to 90 minutes thereafter, this fluctuation promotes a deeper, healthier sleep.
Doctor Charlene Gamaldo states: “Whether it’s in the early morning or close to bedtime, they’ll see a benefit to their sleep. Know your body and know yourself,” also that “it’s generally not going to take months or years to see a benefit. We really want to encourage people to exercise, just be mindful of timing and whether it seems to affect your ability to get optimal sleep quality
Strength training can work wonders for sleeping well
by Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that University students who did strength-based exercises (e.g. leg presses, curls and crunches) at a medium intensity slept 45 minutes longer than those who didn’t. While another German study
of 23,635 individuals found out those who regularly performed resistance, muscle-strengthening exercises were less likely to experience sleepless nights.
One of the study's authors, Jason Bennie, says: “There is strong scientific evidence that exercise is associated with better sleep quality, but most of that evidence is based solely on aerobic exercise
. Our study was the first to describe the associations between muscle-strengthening exercise and sleep quality
, especially among a large population sample.”
So not only will you be working to get sculpted abs, lower blood pressure and be physically stronger - you’ll find that it’s surprisingly effective as a sleep aid!
Need a less intense activity? Walking is still effective
If you need to take it easy and would require a more low-impact workout, going on a brisk walk can still do the job to help improve your sleep. Having a walk (particularly in the day time to get the benefits of getting some vitamin D in the natural light) helps to gain a strong circadian rhythm
, which is associated with healthy sleep. Walking is great for stress reduction, general well-being as well as improving overall fitness levels.
Studies have shown that individuals that struggle to sleep and don’t exercise regularly benefit from increasing their daily steps (with the help of a monitoring device) up by 2,000 steps
and increasing their duration of sleep per night.
A separate study by the World Health Organisation found that going on a brisk two and a half hour walk
once per week can help prevent early death from heart disease, stroke and cancer. If that’s not a good enough reason to get your trainers on and get power walking, then we don’t know what else is!
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