Sleep Doctor Dr. Michael Breus talks to us about the benefits of exercise for sleep, using your chronotype to make sure you’re moving at the right times for you.
When you’re exercising regularly, you likely notice that you’re not only feeling better during the day, but sleeping better at night, too. Exercise can provide excellent benefits for your sleep. Dr. Michael Breus, Six Senses Wellness Board member and specialist behind our groundbreaking Sleep With Six Senses standard, explains why.
How can exercise affect your sleep?
Exercise can give a boost to sleep in several ways. Firstly it improves sleep quality. Physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost immune function, support cardiac health, and control stress and anxiety.
Being physically active requires you to expend energy and helps you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day. Research indicates that exercise—in particular, regular exercise that’s part of a consistent routine—can also help boost sleep duration.
Stress is a common cause of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and sleeping restlessly during the night. Exercise is a potent remedy for anxiety and other mood disorders – just five minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body. Mind-body exercise such as yoga can help quiet the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help you relax. Research shows that mind-body exercises such as yoga and stretching can help to lower cortisol levels and reduce blood pressure, as well as having positive effects on mood.
How much exercise is right?
There is no one right answer to this question. The National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise a week for healthy adults—that’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Studies indicate that sleep may receive some of its most significant benefits from exercise that is consistent and routine over time, especially for people who experience difficulty sleeping.
It may surprise you to hear, but too much exercise can pose problems for sleep. Many people don’t give it much thought, but over-training is a common problem—and can lead to sleep difficulties.
How does bio time work?
There is no one right time of day to exercise. The best times to be physically active depends on your chronotype (you can find out yours at https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com). For example, Lions—who prefer to rise early—hit peak performance in the late morning, while Bears hit their strongest stride in the afternoon. With their preference for later wake-up times, Wolves are at their athletic best in the evening.
If you want to sleep more soundly, try a gentle morning jog. Just be careful about doing any vigorous exercise too early in the morning or without warming up.
How about exercising in the evening?
When it comes to the timing of exercise, all chronotypes should be aware that exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with sleep. Working out too late in the day can leave you feeling energized and stimulated right before bed, and delay your transition to sleep. It can also result in an elevated body temperature, which interferes with your ability to sleep. Try gentle forms of exercise—light stretching, relaxed yoga and after-dinner stroll—within three to four hours of bedtime.
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