Using Exercise To Get The Best Sleep Of Your Life
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to get a great night’s sleep no matter how tired you seem and no matter how well you think you should be able to sleep that night?
Boy, have I been there and that’s one of the worst feelings I think I’ve gone through.
Today I’d like to explore the idea of utilizing exercise to help you get a well-deserved, recovering and deep sleep that you so badly crave.
Unless you have underlying pathological causes of insomnia, I can promise you that implementing some of these techniques will help you sleep a little bit better every day!
What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise?
Before I start this section, I totally agree with you that the effects of exercise on the human body are not only vast, but attempting to discuss all of them in the scope of this article would render much of it highly ambiguous.
However, in the name of keeping it simple, I will only be discussing the effects of exercise on the human body relating to mechanisms of exercise recovery, energy depletion and exhaustion.
So, what does happen to your body after you exercise?
There are a few things that happen immediately afterwards:
- Many of the proteins in your body have begun breaking down
- Your body gets to work rebuilding muscle fibers and protein stores that were damaged
- Your body is deprived of vital glycogen stores in the muscles (in the form of carbohydrates)
- During exercise you usually sweat which can leave your body requiring hydration
Our bodies have somewhat of an “energy bar” or “health bar” (if you’re into video games) in regards to how much physical activity we can accomplish in one day before we experience total exhaustion, so it goes without saying that exercise is one of the best ways to make your body become more tired than it otherwise would be.
In plain English, physically demanding activities such as work and exercise cause you to become more energy-depleted than if you just sat around all day.
Well, you don’t say… Captain Obvious!
However, what this means for you is that you can largely leverage the effects of this phenomenon to get a much better quality night’s sleep – and this effect becomes compounded the more you exercise on a regular basis.
What Happens To Your Brain When You Exercise?
When you exercise, your body experiences a surge of endorphins and “happy” drugs like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are widely heralded for their ability to make us feel happy.
That said, these neurotransmitters in our brains aren’t necessarily directly linked to an improved quality of sleep; however, what they are responsible for is taking any stress, anxiety, worry, sadness or other negative emotions and making them less severe, or, in some cases, even entirely eliminating them.
So, if exercising increases the release of these important brain chemicals, and these chemicals make us less anxious, stressed out, worried and sad, then I’d argue this is a phenomenal way to improve the quality of sleep you can get.
From my own personal experience, I can attest to the fact that anxiety and stress are essentially the #1 reason I don’t always get the best sleep I could – and, I can further attest to the fact that, after heavy bouts of exercise, I not only sleep better but my overall outlook on life improves along with my mood, energy levels, and cognitive functioning.
In a nutshell, stress and anxiety are killers of anything positive in the human body so it’s wise to not only eliminate this in the name of sleeping better, but also in the name of having an overall much healthier body and life.
Compounding The Positive Effects Through Repeated, Regular Bouts of Physical Exertion
Boy, do I really love technical jargon. It makes me sound way smarter than I actually am!
But in all seriousness – “compounding” means – in this use case – accumulating more of the positive benefits over a certain range of time.
Again, in plain English, one could say that you can increase the number of times you get a high-quality and restful sleep by making exercise a regular part of your life. The key here is regular.
Whether you get up and go for a walk outside for 30-60 minutes per day, go to the gym, lift weights, do spin classes, take up yoga, use martial arts, hike, bike or do any other type of sports or exercise, the more you do it, the more positive effects you will experience therefore making it more and more likely that your sleep quality will improve dramatically.
The important thing to keep in mind here, however, is that you must bring your body to a point where it’s actively releasing neurotransmitters in your brain and you are demanding a certain level of exertion from your body in order to illicit the above physiological responses from exercise.
So, How CAN You Ensure That Your Body Is More Tired AND Fired Up With Neurotransmitters?
You see, your body won’t get to the point of physical exhaustion if you simply go outside for 10 minutes.
I am not necessarily talking about complete exhaustion, I am talking about a state your body is in that makes you feel like you could sleep for a day.
Trust me when I say this – I know many people for whom a simple 60 minute walk would illicit this response in their body.
It’s kind of sad to know that some people close to me are in rough shape, but it’s nonetheless the truth.
What this means for you is simple. Go outside for a walk. 60 minutes, brisk, quick – that’s all you need.
If you’re in better shape, maybe go to the gym and work out for 45-60 minutes.
If you’re in even better shape, try taking up a martial arts class that demands some serious conditioning.
Chances are that if you’re already in decent shape, your body is already used to exercise so you may already be enjoying the benefits of exercise on sleep quality.
And in the case that you’re already exercising, and if you’re still unable to get a good night’s sleep, you may have some underlying pathology or stress and anxiety that needs to be addressed first.
Creating a scenario during which your body has demands for physical exertion placed upon it that it isn’t usually used to will ensure that you can maximally capitalise on what we’ve discussed here today.
In essence, challenge your body to do something a little more than what it’s used to and you can enjoy all of the benefits of exercise on sleep.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
So this article is a wrap-up but I wanted to leave you with a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) summary and overview of what we’ve discussed.
- Exercise places your body in a state of exhaustion because it’s trying to repair itself. Use this to improve sleep quality.
- Exercise also has the effect of surging your brain full of happy-making neurotransmitters which helps to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, sadness, worry and a variety of other negative emotions.
- Negative emotions are the killer of quality sleep – so eliminating or significantly reducing them will help you sleep better. Use exercise to do this as well.
- If you’re unsure of how to illicit these two responses in your body, simply challenge your body in a way it isn’t used to.
- If you go for 10 minute walks, do 30-60 instead – or try hiking, cycling or even a martial arts class.
- As long as you demand physical performance from your body, you can reap the benefits that exercise will have on the quality of your sleep.
I really hope you enjoyed this article and I hope you begin using some of these strategies (or, best of all… all of them!) to greatly improve the quality of your sleep!