23 Aug 2016

Sports that may help you sleep

It may have been years since the last time you picked up a football or been part of a cycling club, but that should be no deterrent for you if you’re having trouble sleeping. In fact, sport not only helps you sleep, but it also works as a stress-reliever.

While you might be aware that high-intensity sports can make you tired, something you might not know is that some sports can help you to fall asleep more easily than others. There are three things to consider when working sport into your daily schedule, specifically if its main job is to help you sleep.

1.   The type of sport

Sports are broken down into two main categories: aerobic and non-aerobic. Aerobic exercise, or cardio exercise, is any continuous physical activity lasting over 10 minutes that causes you to breathe harder, sweat more and increase your heart rate. Examples include long distance running, swimming and cycling. Non-aerobic exercises, on the other hand, involve short periods of higher intensity exercise where your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the available supply. Examples include any rapid bursts of vigorous exercise, such as sprinting or weight lifting.

When it comes to helping your sleep, aerobic exercises are the best to combat sleeplessness. Whether you choose to walk, run or cycle, it is recommended to exercise daily for 30 minutes1 to really make a difference in your sleep cycle.

If this sounds like too much activity for you, why not consider something more relaxing, such as yoga? Both are calming exercises with a focus on developing your breathing technique, which in turn promotes regular and restful sleeping patterns and can even help individuals suffering from insomnia. 

Quick Tip:

There are devices on the market that can help you to track your activity levels, including the distances that you walk or run. Some of these activity trackers even help you to monitor your heart rate, the number of calories that you consume and even the quality of your sleep!

2.   What time of day is best?

Knowing what time of day is the best time to do some exercise will help you sleep better.

Evening: This isn’t the best time to exercise, especially if you’re looking for ways to help you sleep. The reason for this is that exercise releases endorphins, which raises your adrenaline levels, making you more energised and therefore unlikely to fall asleep easily.

Morning: Exercising in the morning can be an ideal way to begin your day - if you are a morning person, that is. Endorphins will soon kick the thought of an early morning out of your mind, and will carry you into the day.

Afternoon: If mornings seem daunting, go for the afternoon exercise session. Keep in mind that it needs to be at least 3-4 hours before bedtime in order to allow your body to relax after the endorphin high.

3.   Sports, sleep and you

Playing the right sports and engaging in the correct physical activity can help you sleep through the night.

However, if you’re not the sporty type, there are simple adjustments that you can make to your daily routine that will help you to increase your activity level:

  • Walk/cycle or run to work instead of drive
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Engage with your family by doing something active like swimming or bike riding

Whatever you choose to do, the more active you are during the day, the more likely you will be to relax and fall asleep at night.

When it comes to exercises that help you sleep, you can be sure that something is better than nothing. So, even if you can’t dedicate set hours per week to being part of a sporting club or team, you can change elements of your day to include healthier lifestyle choices. Download our eBook “Unlocking the Pillars of Health” to see how nutrition and exercise work together to give you optimal, consistent sleep.

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References:

  1. Walking for good health. Victoria State Government. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/walking-for-good-health