We all know that leading a sedentary life with little to no physical activity can have long-term health consequences, and exercise is the obvious antidote. Regular exercise has other benefits too, including stress relief and getting a better night’s sleep.
While scientists are still exploring the connection between sleep and exercise, there is little doubt that they are both mutually inclusive. In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists observed the effects of exercise on people in their 60s who predominantly led sedentary lifestyles. Those who exercised regularly over a 16-week period had a longer sleep duration than their sedentary counterparts.
Here are 5 reasons why exercise improves the quality of sleep.
1) Helps You Fall Asleep
Physical activity means you’re expending energy and reducing stress. The healthy fatigue gained from exercising means you fall asleep faster. Northwestern University conducted a study showing that aerobic exercise alleviates insomnia, improves sleep quality and reduces daytime drowsiness.
2) Reduces Stress
The most common reason why people are kept up at night is due to increased agitation and being in a constant state of stress. Our worries about work and money are so mentally fatiguing they frequently disrupting our sleep patterns. One common response to stress is subconsciously clenching our muscles in our upper body.
Muscle tension can be painful and prevent a good night’s sleep. Exercise is shown to alleviate mental stress, which automatically removes the need to clench muscles, and the result is a more peaceful, tension-free slumber. In addition, mind-body exercise, like yoga, lowers cortisol levels and reduces blood pressure which has positive effects on physical and mental stress.
3) Enhances the Quality of Sleep
Sleep scientists describe ‘good quality’ sleep by dividing sleep processes into several different layers. Each layer has a unique homeostatic process, the deprivation of which can severely limit good quality sleep. These multiple layers include slow wave sleep, N2 sleep, and REM sleep. While the full impact of exercise is still debatable, what is widely agreed upon is that exercise increases the time spent in deep sleep, the most healing and restorative phase of sleep.
4) Increases the Duration of Sleep
Sleep scientists found that the average sleep time of a person who engages in regular exercise is higher than those who lead sedentary lifestyles. Exercise makes you expend energy, so you’ll naturally feel more tired at the end of the day. Physical activity increases the duration in addition to the quality of sleep.
5) Improves Insomnia & Sleep Disorders
Regular and sustained exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is an excellent natural therapy for insomnia. Studies also indicate that exercise can reduce the severity of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea.