Does physical exercise really promote better sleep?

At either end of the spectrum, whether you are exercising a lot or not at all, these extremes can have a negative effect on your sleep.

So let’s talk about the dynamics involved here, and how to strike that healthy balance that works for your daytimes and your nights.

 
 

The reality is that physical exercise impacts the body, and it will impact your sleep as well.

 
 
 
 

Having a physically healthy body allows you to enjoy good quality sleep as well. I’ve seen this with so many clients and it’s also a part of my own story.

When I was struggling with my own sleep I wasn’t exercising in the right way for my body, which mean my sleep was being pushed around in all sorts of different ways.

In my example, I was trying exercise as a way to get better sleep, so after a busy day at work I was going to the gym quite late at night. Personally, my blood pressure is at the lower end of the normal range. What that meant for a late workout was that I would leave the gym exhausted and dizzy sometimes, needing to eat to help me recover. As it was already late at night, adding in a meal and then digesting that food just pushed by sleep back further and further.

 
 

Don’t workout too late in the day

So one of my tips for you today is to learn from my experience. Of course there is my example of needing to eat late after the gym, which then leads to the body needing to digest food before you can sleep well.

But there are other dynamics to consider in this scenario too, such as our hormone levels after exercise. Working out releases those feel good endorphins and raises our adrenaline and cortisol, which of course can contribute to wakefulness when we should be switching modes for sleep.

 
 

Morning exercise and energy throughout the day

Many professionals choose to work out first thing in the morning, getting it done before work. If this works for you then great, and there are no right or wrong answers here. But I just want to bring your attention to how you feels for the rest of the day if you exercise first thing.

The length of your exercise session before work can make a big difference. A shorter session may be great for energizing you, where as a longer or tougher session can leave you depleted before you begin your whole day of work.

Again, it’s about finding what works for you and really listening to your body rather than just powering through. And do consider how you will nourish yourself with a good breakfast to help maintain consistent energy throughout your day.

A really important thing I want to touch on is getting up so early for the gym that you cut back on sleep. Please don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise.

I see people doing this and it is very bad for your health. If you’re not sleeping well enough then your body cannot repair and adapt after your exercise. Over time your exercise performance will be impacted too, as well as your overall health.

 
 

Avoid the trap of not exercising at all

With those professionals I see who don’t find time to exercise very much, or even at all, they do experience negative effects on their sleep.

When you don’t exercise at all you lack energy, which often leads to bad food choices and weight gain.

So if you currently don’t exercise at all, I would encourage you to start small and build up a routine gradually, allowing your body time to adjust. This might not even be going to the gym. Something simple like walking outside on your lunch break or working on your sitting posture at your desk, engaging your core, or simple breathing exercises.

These micro exercises really help people to get started and increase their energy without tiring themselves out.

Do look at how you can incorporate some small things into your daily life, building good habits for better health. As I’ve said often, good sleep and maintaining your energy throughout the day requires you to look at your entire 24 hours, not just your time spent in bed.

 
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