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Want to sleep better? How to workout for better Zzz's

Posted by Joe Wicks in Fitness, Wellbeing

Some days, no matter how hard you try to knock out a workout in the morning, it just doesn't happen. This leaves you with a dilemma: you skip training altogether, or squeeze it in at lunch or before you hit the hay. But does working out later in the day get in the way of good sleep? Or do certain types of training make it harder to fall asleep? In this post, guest writer Nicole McDermott digs through the research and talks to the experts to find out if you can tweak your exercise regime to get better sleep.

By freelance writer, Nicole McDermott

The relationship between exercise and sleep

Exercise can influence sleep in several ways. According to Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson, exercise promotes health in general, which in turn promotes healthy sleep. Regular exercise not only helps reduce the risk of certain sleep disorders – such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea – but it can also improve sleep efficiency and increase sleep duration.

Does what time we work out really matter?

Here's the short answer: The timing of exercise matters a little – to some people. “Too intense, too late can interfere with sleep," Grandner says. He explains that morning exercise can help promote a healthy circadian rhythm (the biological clock that influences our sleep-wake cycles), especially if you use the opportunity to work out outside when it's light. “It can help send a 'daytime' signal to your brain when you're active, which then helps you generate a strong 'nighttime' signal at the appropriate time," he says.

Does the type of exercise really matter?

The type of exercise may matter too. While it may be a no brainer that certain low impact, low-intensity workouts like restorative yoga can promote relaxation, what about higher intensity exercise? One study found that when it comes to resistance exercise, lifting any time of the day may improve the quality of sleep compared to no resistance training at all. While people who trained at 7:00 a.m. fell asleep faster than the people who didn't work out and the ones that trained in the afternoon or evening, interestingly enough, the people who lifted weights later in the day at 7:00 p.m. actually slept better than the people who worked out in the morning. While this is just one study – and it focuses on resistance training – it challenges the idea that morning exercise is the best bet for sleep.

5 ways to exercise smarter for better sleep

Don't forget about diet

“Exercise and sleep, along with diet, are the three pillars of good health. Like a three legged stool, if one is insufficient, the stool will fall over," Grandner says. Just as exercise can influence the quality and duration of sleep, so too can your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so make sure you eat plenty of healthy, whole foods.

Use sleep to positively impact exercise

Think of it this way: Exercise helps with sleep, but sleep can also help with exercise. By getting enough quality sleep, you can have more energy to push through and better recover from workouts.

Skip high-tempo music

Some research suggests certain music can be stimulating while other music has a sedative effect. If you listen to loud, high-tempo music when you work out, try no music or listen to low-tempo, relaxing music during your cool down.

Do what works for you

Just because a study says certain exercise timing affected most participants one way doesn't mean the same will be true for you. “Listen to your body and try out different intensities and exercise modes and find what works best for you," Collier says. If a cardio session makes you feel wired before bed, maybe it's not for you.

And don't lose too much sleep over it

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and being active no matter what time of day is better than not being active at all. We'll leave the last word for our expert.

“Get exercise. Don't worry too much about how you get it, where you get it, and what types of exercise you get—just get some," Grandner says.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 tips for getting a better night's sleep.


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Joe Wicks

About Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks is the online nutrition coach inspiring people all over the world to cook with his #Leanin15 video meals on Instagram. He is also transforming the lives of thousands of people with his tailored online nutrition plan, The 90 Day Shift, Shape & Sustain plan.

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