Exercise and Sleep: Finding a Balance
by Cam – Friday, 2. October 2020
Elephants Never Forget… and Barely Sleep
Did you know wild elephants sleep only two hours a night? They don’t even accomplish this in a single nap. Instead, they experience four or five quick bursts of rest known as polyphasic sleep. Despite such little slumber, they are still able to live as long as 70 years. If only we could be so lucky to have this type of time balance. We might even be able to accomplish everything we need to in a day!
Unfortunately humans aren’t as lucky. It takes effort to find a healthy balance of sleep and activity in order to keep our delicate psychological and physiological systems in working order. There’s a lot of increasing demands in our personal lives and exercise and sleep seem to be the first to be sacrificed when we are stretched thing. At the same time, they are incredibly important for our longevity and long-term health.
Both sleep and exercise act like a symbiotic relationship, and how we organize them can make a big difference on our levels of stress and well-being. Here are some ways you can improve your relationship with both.
Cardio Improves Your Sleep Quality
Aerobic activity like cycling and running are essential to a good night of sleep. According to the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, participants who performed cardio four times a week at 75% of their maximum heart rate experienced longer sleeping durations. They were also able to fall asleep faster. They also experienced less daytime fatigue and depressive emotional states.
To maximize your results, focus on turning up the intensity and making sure you are putting in a strong effort during workouts. This will help you fall asleep faster and stay that way throughout the night. It’s recommended that you engage in at least 30 minutes of this medium to intense cardio.
Timing Your Exercise Matters
Physical exercise creates a lot of different hormonal responses, and two of the most important are endorphins and adrenaline. These chemicals reduce pain and lower stress levels, but they also keep you awake. As a result, it’s important to make sure your workouts are no later than 1-2 hours before your bedtime. This gives the body time to normalize and “wash out” the endorphins.
Exercise also raises your core body temperature temporarily. Depending on your body type and other factors, it takes about 30 to 90 minutes before body temperature starts to fall. This decline can induce sleepiness. If your having trouble reducing your temperature, or shifting your workout to be earlier in the day, try taking a colder shower. This should help you lower temperatures faster.
Less than a Full Night Sleep? Try Morning Workouts
New research shows that working out in the morning might help you sleep more soundly during the night. Participants in the Appalachian State University study worked out early mornings, mid-day, and evening for several weeks. The results showed reductions in blood pressure, as well as longer sleep durations without interruption.
If you choose to take this route make sure to prepare yourself the night before. Eating a solid meal the evening before a workout can help you carry energy into the next day. It’s also a good idea to prepare clothing, equipment, and food that you need, so that you are ready to hit the ground running without compromising your needed rest.
Minimize Stress and Maximize Sleep
Who hasn’t experienced a heavy head full of thoughts while lying in bed? It doesn’t seem to matter how many sheep you count, it can feel impossible to fall asleep. Stress is one of the number one enemies of rest, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Feel good neurotransmitters, or endorphins, trigger responses in your brain. These can lead to you feeling more positive, relaxed, and optimistic. Taking time to workout might not be the easiest thing in the world when you’re stressed, but try and make it a habit nonetheless.
All forms of exercise can ease stress, and repetitive cardio works particularly well. Rowing, cycling, and running all provide great ease to your mind. Other slow exercises can help as well, especially pilates and yoga, which can relax the body and mind.
Find a Balance
It’s difficult to plan workouts, and even more difficult to build a schedule that’s consistent. We offer many options at Velocity to help you plan your time, and hopefully give you a chance to have a successful high intensity workout. Sleep gives you the ability to metabolize your food and rebuild the damage your body takes. Exercise gives you the energy to get through the day and sleep through the night. Together, these two are essential to a happy and healthy life. Make sure to take the time to find the right balance and build a better you!
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