We’ve all heard that exercise helps you to sleep better, but have you ever wondered why? Here’s a quick (simplified!) look at the science behind it…
Ever wondered why after an energetic exercise class, a quick twenty lengths in the pool, or a run around the local park means that when you snuggle down you are out like a light? Well we did some investigating.
Exercise can help promote a deeper, more restful sleep in three ways.
1. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature
Every night, your body temperature naturally falls as you start to drop off. The drop in temperature after exercise mimics the natural temperature drop your body normally experiences, and so you’re able to encourage your body into falling asleep faster. This is why it’s important not to exercise too late (and why you should take a warm bath rather than a hot one if you want to sleep better): the drop in temperature is important, but your body needs time for this drop to occur.
2. Exercise helps ease anxiety
Exercise can decrease excitement, anxiety and depressive symptoms by regulating some of the hormones that trigger such emotions, all of which can keep us awake at night. Most people know that exercise can make your body release endorphins, which are ‘happy hormones’. In truth, these hormones act on your brain so that pain isn’t perceived to be as strong, and can trigger a positive feeling of contentment in the same way that morphine does.
3. Exercise improves circadian rhythms
Finally, exercise can improve our circadian rhythms (body clock). Our internal body clocks are governed by cascades of processes and hormone releases. Cortisol plays a large part of this, and is involved in waking us up in the morning, as well as a response to stress. Regular exercise can decrease the amount of cortisol released in response to stress, and lower cortisol levels mean you shouldn’t be kept awake at night...
Every day, the news tells us that exercise brings with it many health benefits. Is it any wonder why everyone isn’t already doing it? But of course, our inclination to exercise stems down to motivation. We know that the effects of exercise on sleep aren’t immediate, so sadly you won’t be able to see results overnight (sorry!). But keep at it - you’re doing great, and it will pay off more as it becomes more of a habit!
What do you think? Does exercise help you achieve a better, deeper sleep?