When you're not getting one, a good night's sleep can feel as desirable (and impossible) as a date with a Hemsworth. But did you know that if you're struggling to sleep properly, exercise can help?
According to research, 16 million UK adults suffer from sleepless nights and a terrifying 31% of them identify as insomniacs. Factors like work stress, anxiety, and technology use (yes, we mean scrolling on Instagram) can all impact your ability to get a quality night’s sleep on a regular basis - and so can how much exercise we do.
"If you're struggling with sleep, getting more exercise is a great place to start," says sleep specialist Melanie Richards at PureOptical. But before you race to the treadmill, read the rest of Melanie's advice on why working out could help you sleep more soundly.
Exercise = endorphins
Newsflash: exercise doesn’t just exercise the muscles. Moving our bodies can maintain mental fitness too, as it enhances concentration, cognitive function and reduces stress levels. "Exercise sparks endorphins to the brain, which act as a painkiller and can cause the body to experience a sense of euphoria," says Richards. "Regular cardio exercise - like aerobics or spinning - will increase the amount of endorphins travelling to the brain, and any activity that eases stress in the brain will decrease tension in the body and aid in calming mood." Enter: a good night's sleep.
Timing is everything
Although exercising is a great way to get a good night's sleep, timing is everything. "Working out later in the evening can stimulate the body and boost your energy levels, which will delay your body's ability to fall asleep," warns Richards. "Working out in the morning, however, lowers blood pressure throughout the day and allows us to reach optimum sleeping levels by the evening." Top tip: If you do work out in the morning, eat an adequate dinner the night before and have a morning snack before you exercise.
Take your temperature
The body’s temperature plays an instrumental role in both our quality of sleep and sleeping patterns, too. "The body’s temperature rises throughout exercise and then gradually falls again once the exercise is completed. A lower body temperature will make you feel sleepier, whereas a consistent rise in the body’s temperature can hinder sleep. That's another reason why it's vital that you do not exercise too close to bedtime - your temperature will not fall in time for sleep and you may find that you cannot sleep."
Melanie Richards is a sleep specialist at PureOptical.
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