If you’re struggling to sleep, exercises can be your best friend. In fact, scientific evidence indicates that you are definitely more likely to sleep after a moderate workout during the day.
Not all activities are suitable though. The good news is, we can help you choose the right exercises to help with sleep.
We have chatted to exercise and sleep experts who understand the balance between day time activities and night time rest. The following blog lists a range of exercises that suit all body types and levels of fitness. There are exercises for sleep and snoring too. We have included all the information you need to create your own sleep workout including replacing your gym kit from Lit or Urban Kissed if you need to. Enjoy.
Resistance Based Exercise for Better Sleep
Resistance training is based on using muscle contractions to push against an object or force. In the simplest exercises the object is the users’ body. This is the case with the work out ideas we’ve shared here. The most discussed benefits of resistance training include building strength, toning muscles and burning calories. Get them right, however, and they are also great exercises to help with sleep
At a basic level, muscular tiredness makes us feel drowsy. This may be linked to a molecule known as Adenosine that is released by your body during resistance workouts. Your body is better able to metabolise glucose and lipids, blood pressure is lower and you’re less likely to suffer from anxiety and stress symptoms after anaerobic workouts too. All these factors add up to healthier sleeping after a workout.
Let us look at three basic resistance exercises that help with sleep you can do at home.
Press ups are an old favourite. You’ll be familiar with the routine. Get down on all fours, place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, straighten your arms and legs and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Push yourself back up and repeat. Kneeling press ups, where you use your legs to provide extra stability and support are a common variant for beginners.
Doing a short set of press ups an hour before bed will kick start some of the sleep-inducing metabolic and anxiety reducing processes we discussed above. Avoid a full gym workout. Keep things gentle. Breaking rep records, for example, will exhaust you and add to your stress levels. This is more likely to keep you awake, than send you off to the land of nod.
For a sit up, lie down on your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent,
place your hands on either side of your head, bend at the waist to raise your body off the ground and then lower it back to the starting position. Repeat.
Again, a gentle round of sit ups an hour before bed is ideal to create muscle tiredness and ease into drwosiness. Be careful though, over do it and you’ll risk neck and back strains and acid build up which will ruin your sleep plans.
Squats couldn’t be more straightforward. Start standing with feet hip-width apart, with shoulders pulled and your back straight, extend your right leg and arms out in front of you, slowly send hips back and bend left knee to squat toward the floor keeping your heel grounded. Return to the start position. Repeat with the left leg and arm and then right, then left again until you’re done.
You can add to the resistance experienced during squats by using weights or bands, but these are best avoided before sleep. Excessive force and strength requirements will put the body under pressure and recovery will keep you awake – the opposite of the desired effect!
Stretching Exercises To Do Before Sleep
As we get sleepy, we often unconsciously stretch our muscles. This is a parasympathetic auto-response to the brain signalling we need to calm down and relax. Stretching promotes blood flow and oxygen exchange too which, in turn, helps soothe aches and pains. The final benefit of stretching is thought to be an endorphin rush. It feels good and, as a result, floods the brain with ‘good-mood’ chemicals. All this means having a good muscular stretch is probably the best exercise for insomnia relief.
Here are some examples to try.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground with your arms by your sides. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold this for a couple of seconds before easing your hips back to the ground. Repeat.
By giving your back, glutes, shoulders and knees a gentle stretch, you can get your heart pumping and release those endorphins.
Cat and Cow
Cat and cow stretches are named after the body shapes you form. . Kneel on all fours with your arms directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. On breathing in, curve your lower back, bring your head up and tilt your pelvis upwards. This is the cow. On breathing out, bring your abdomen in, arch your spine and lower your head like a cat.
If you’re looking for simple exercises to sleep better, cat and cow stretches are a good start. Known as Charavakasana poses in yoga, the synchronised breathing and stretching you achieve with cat and cow stretches are known to induce calmness and relaxation.
The final stretch we recommend is a trunk rotation. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Keep your shoulders and upper body flat to the floor too. Outstretch your arms to the side, tighten your abdominal muscles and rotate your knees to one side. Hold the pose for 3-5 seconds before rotating your knees to the other side of your body. Hold and repeat. Keep breathing and relaxed at all times.
A strengthened trunk will help avoid back pain and keep you mobile, however as a sleeping exercise before bed it’s great to reduce muscular and spinal tension. A few gentle repetitions an hour before you turn in should help your routine.
Aerobic Exercises For Better Sleep
Should you undertake aerobic or cardio exercise at night before sleep? Until recently the fitness community discouraged working out just before bed. The thinking was aerobic and cardio exercise an hour before calling it a night kept you awake. Workouts after 7pm didn’t leave enough time to overcome their effects and would keep you awake.
Modern studies, however, found this only to be the case with vigorous exercise. A more moderate approach in the evenings would not adversely affect sleep patterns. In fact, it was proved that 30 minutes of low impact training an hour before bed had a positive impact. Key to success, it seemed, was forming, and sticking to a fixed sleep schedule.
Running & Walking
According to experts, going for a short, moderate, low impact run is considered a good form of cardio before sleep. An increased flow of oxygenated blood is good for you and anxiety busting endorphins help the day come to a calm, relaxed end. You can also, of course, enjoy similar effects at lower risk from brisk walk round your neighbourhood.
If you have access to a pool, swimming before bed is also a good way to burn off excess energy. It is low impact, and yet has the same effects as other cardio exercises. A 20-30 minute dip an hour before bed is the amongst best exercise at night, before sleep, you can have.
Why Does Exercise Improve Sleep Quality?
Including exercise in your bed time routine can definitely improve sleep quality. Any habit that becomes a routine part of your schedule is good for creating healthy sleep patterns. Turning off the TV for 30 minutes for a walk, swim or gentle set of press ups, as part of your night-time routine, is a great step. This is especially true if you stick to natural rhythms and listen to your inner body clock.
One of the main reasons light exercise before bed is good for sleep quality is the promotion of relaxation and reduction in anxiety. People talk of using a work out to clear their minds and ‘wash the day away’. If that sounds familiar, mindfully embrace that aspect of your workout.
On a neurological level, resistance exercises, stretching and cardio all involve the release of endorphins. Endorphins have a range of effects on the body including reducing pain, relieving anxiety, managing our appetites and – yes – helping us sleep. Adenosine is released by your body during resistance workouts too. This has been proven to make us drowsy.
Can Exercise Keep You Awake?
The simple answer is yes. Overdoing your workout and you can raise your core body temperature, increase your heart rate uncomfortably, make you short of breath and to stress and anxiety levels. These are not normally part of our night-time natural rhythm and will make getting to sleep more difficult.
Fitting exercise around your routine and ensuring it has a healthy impact on your sleep patterns means carefully managing its timing and intensity. Do too much or do it at the wrong time, and you’ll have the opposite results than you might hope for.
How Much Exercise Do You Need For A Better Night Sleep?
All of the exercises we suggest that you do before sleeping roughly take on the same form. Gentle, easy, short periods of exercise are better than intense or long workouts. Taking 20-30 minutes to raise your pulse and breathing a little an hour before you plan to get into bed is perfect.
Get it right and you’ll sleep better for longer. You may see improvements in sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or snoring too. Give it a go. You might be surprised at the results.