Move More for Better Sleep
Tempur sleep experts share guide to the importance of exercise for a good night’s sleep.
With the summer of sport in full swing – UEFA Euro Championships, Wimbledon, Tour de France, and World Test Championship – TEMPUR® explores the relationship between exercise and sleep.
Not only essential for overall health, fitness, and wellbeing, exercise is also crucial to achieving a healthy sleep routine.
Moving more can ensure a better quality and quantity of sleep, which is critical for our bodies to rest and repair, to aid with focus, and to help us perform at our best.
We’ve all felt groggy, grumpy or less able to function well after a bad night’s sleep, but many of us don’t realise that a consistent lack of sleep has wide-ranging side effects, including poor memory and focus, changes to mood, increased irritability, more susceptibility to exercise-related fatigue and injuries, and even a weakened immune system.
The key to understanding the importance of this relationship is to recognise the positive impact of exercise on both our mental and physical health, and how this can, in turn, affect our sleep.
Even small amounts of exercise can improve mood and cognitive function, meaning better sleep long-term. As such, it’s important to keep moving throughout the day to help prepare the body and mind for a more restorative sleep come bedtime.
Read on for the TEMPUR® sleep experts’ guide to moving more for better sleep.
How are sleep and exercise linked?
Enjoying regular exercise can influence both the quality and quantity of our sleep for the better – extending sleep duration, improving sleep quality, and decreasing sleep onset – the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
In addition to helping us feel more naturally tired at the end of the day, regular physical activity helps you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce health risks associated with a more sedentary lifestyle, as well as helping to reduce the risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.
Additionally, a good night’s sleep is important for those who exercise regularly as it helps muscles and tissues repair and strengthen, which can help you avoid fatigue and exercise-related injuries.
In terms of mental health, just 15 minutes of physical activity can improve mood and cognitive function. More regular activity also helps reduce stress, anxieties and manage depression, subsequently reducing our tendency to lay awake at night or toss and turn due to worries.
How often should I exercise?
Adults should aim to do some form of physical activity every day – any activity is better than none – but whether you enjoy walking the dog, cycling, jogging in the park, pilates, yoga, gardening, dancing with the kids or group sport is up to you.
We should also break up long periods of not moving with bursts of activity, particularly those with desk jobs that sit for long periods during the day. Ideally, we should aim for movement every 20 minutes – the perfect excuse to make another cup of tea. If every 20 minutes sounds too challenging, set an alarm for every 30 minutes and simply stand up, bend over and slowly roll up vertebrae by vertebrae finishing with your head. Then before sitting back down, shake it all out.
How much exercise should I be doing?
The correct amount of exercise largely depends on your body type and lifestyle – if you have a very active job or spend the day running around after kids you won’t need to dedicate as much time purely to exercising as someone who has a desk job or a more sedentary lifestyle.
Over the course of a week adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week(1). This translates into 30 minutes of exercise every day, but can, of course, be broken up into smaller bursts. You could do a 20-minute YouTube exercise class, followed by a 10-minute brisk walk. Build exercise into your day as well by leaving the car and walking, cycling, or jogging whenever possible.
What if I just don’t have time?
Daily physical activity is crucial to maintaining health and wellbeing so should be prioritised. A lack of physical activity will negatively impact your physical and mental health as well as the quality and quantity of your sleep. It’s too important to be an afterthought!
If you struggle to find time to fit in a dedicated workout, consider whether you really need to be chained to your desk/home all day. Get creative and simply add more movement to your day wherever you can:
- If you’re working from home commute to and from your home office space with a brisk walk around the block before you sit down at your desk and again once you’ve finished for the day.
- Book a meeting with yourself – block out your diary with 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon that you can then spend away from your desk doing an activity you enjoy.
- Try taking a walking meeting – just pop in some headphones and jot down any notes on your phone.
- Walk to the park with the kids for a picnic lunch before enjoying some simple ball games.
What exercise should I be doing?
A combination of cardio and muscle strengthening exercises will leave you feeling healthier and stronger than ever.
Cardio includes activities that get your heart pumping – a brisk walk, dancing, jogging, skipping, hula hooping and HIIT all count. If you enjoy following video tutorials, mix up any high impact workouts that are tougher on your joints with low impact variations.
Muscle strengthening activities doesn’t have to mean lifting weights in the gym, instead you can try yoga which utilises your own body weight or even gardening that includes digging and shovelling.
The important thing is to find a form of exercise you enjoy as you’ll then be more likely to prioritise it as part of your day.
What time should I exercise?
What time you exercise should be an important factor in the type of activity you do – early morning and afternoon exercise helps to reset the sleep-wake cycle by increasing body temperature, allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later.
In the summer months make the most of the lighter mornings by exercising outdoors to allow your body to absorb natural light as exposure to natural light during the day helps to calibrate the body’s internal circadian clock.
If you enjoy high impact activities try to keep these as a morning workout as too late in the day will leave you feeling wired and unable to drift off come bedtime.
If exercising earlier in the day isn’t possible, try and leave at least an hour between exercising and getting into bed as this will allow the adrenaline and cortisol, stimulating hormones released by your body during exercise, to reduce to normal levels.
And remember – whilst prioritising daily physical activity is a must, this shouldn’t come at a cost your sleep. To aid physical recovery ensure you’re sleeping on a supportive, pressure relieving mattress and alter your bedtime to allow for 7-9 hours of quality sleep, no matter how early you’re waking to exercise.
For more information on Tempur, visit www.tempur.co.uk.
Notes to editors:
- (1) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/how-to-improve-strength-flexibility/
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