Does exercise promote sleep?

The claim from health specialists has always been that the more you move during the day, the better you sleep at night. But why? Is it simply that you work your body into a state to tiredness? And if this is the case then why is it that there are another set of specialists who insist that you shouldn’t work out too close to bedtime?

The New York Times published an article stating that through a recent scientific experiment using “actigraphs — devices that measure movement — and then seeing whether more movement and activity during the day meant improved sleep at night” it was concluded that, quite simply, “being more physically active can lead to better sleep.”

However, in the same year, the Daily Telegraph published a contradictory article with the headline, “Exercise can keep you awake – not put you to sleep, study finds”. The study they refer to also involved participants wearing “armbands monitoring their movements for 23 days”.

It appears both studies used the same equipment but came to very different conclusions, so which is it? Will we ever find conclusive evidence or is it a case of different strokes for different people?

The Telegraph article seems to agree that we react differently to exercise as Dr Eliasson, of the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington DC, “speculates the findings may be explained by personality types.” It may seem like a cop-out by the experts, but it may be the best explanation we are going to get. So how do you interpret this information and ascertain which type of person(ality) you are?

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Try working out at different times of the day to see how easily you fall asleep. Monitor your sleep patterns on your fitness day off and see what works best for you, because really if the scientists can’t agree, working it out for yourself is all you can do. If you are one with a nervous disposition or predisposed to stress and anxiety, then it’s quite possible that no amount of running/jogging/aerobics is going to induce sleep, which is why people often turn to yoga.

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