Exercise & Sleep: 2 of the most powerful modalities for wellbeing | Clarity Massage & Wellness Centre

Exercise & Sleep: 2 of the most powerful modalities for wellbeing

Exercise & Sleep: 2 of the most powerful modalities for wellbeing

 

By Erin Parish from EP Exercise Physiology

We all know that exercise and sleep are important factors for our health and wellbeing, pillars for how we feel and perform throughout our day and week. However, so often many of us struggle with both of these modalities – whether independently of one another, or perhaps you feel like both are not quite where they need to be. 

As an Exercise Physiologist I’m all about the exercise – or movement as I prefer to say. Let’s look at exactly why exercise is so helpful when it comes to improving our sleep (quality and quantity). 

AND, why sleep is SO IMPORTANT for optimizing our exercise performance. 

Yep – it’s two-fold. Sleep and exercise work as a great team; let’s get your Sleep-Exercise team really working for you. 

Two women doing exercise together to get better sleep and increase their overall health

Exercise for improving sleep

Exercise is a great way to use up energy and facilitate our bodies to feel more tired and increase that feeling of readiness to sleep. Exercise is also proven to increase the overall length of sleep time we get and increase the time our bodies stay in deep sleep. Deep sleep is the restorative sleep where all the magic happens for muscle and tissue repair. Which, if you’ve been exercising is an important recovery process.   

Exercise is also a great stress reliever. Often stress is a major cause of sleep disturbance or chronic sleep concerns (like insomnia). Exercise is one of the best ways to disperse excess cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and is produced in the Fight-or-Flight response (our parasympathetic nervous system).  Exercise helps to stimulate our sympathetic nervous system – which can be considered our Rest and Restore state. As you can imagine, spending more time in Rest and Restore is incredibly helpful for reducing stress levels and getting a great nights sleep. 

Research states that if we are not getting good quality and quantity sleep we are more prone to injuries, our immune system is reduced and (if prolonged) we are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sleep for improving exercise

As I mentioned above sleep is when our bodies get busy repairing, building and growing ready for a new day. Exercise is a form of stress on the body (as a whole) and therefore we need to allow time for muscles, energy and organs to over come this. 

Research states that if we are not getting good quality and quantity sleep we are more prone to injuries, our immune system is reduced and (if prolonged) we are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Plus our over-all function and performance (during exercise) is often impaired or reduced if we’ve had less than 5-6 hours sleep. 

There is a flip side, sometimes our bodies just need sleep and training can hinder our sleep quality and cycle. This is especially true if you are training at a high intensity daily for prolonged timeframes (think training for a marathon, triathlon, or athletes). Over training is a real thing (with legitimate signs & symptoms) and has the opposite effect of the usual anti-stress response. If you’re unsure please seek advice from your exercise expert. 

How much exercise, what kind & when?

How much is such an individual thing, and I always say to clients that a little exercise is a lot better than no exercise. You can look at The National Physical Activity Guidelines (https://exerciseright.com.au/exercise-right-for-life/)  for more specific details. I like to suggest we all aim to accumulate from 2 – 5 hours of moderate physical activity in a week. Ideally making half of that total time more vigorous or higher intensity.  

The kind of exercise and when you do it is up to you! Some people find exercising later at night can keep them awake (this often has to do with basal body temperatures), but some people are fine. Learn and trial what works for YOU. 

What do you love to do? What makes you feel great, what gets your heart rate up, your muscles working and the endorphins flowing? I love to suggest a combination of cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, swimming, cycling) and strength training (strength training is my fave!). 

If you ever need any guidance on what exercise is right for you (regardless of your current fitness, stage of life or health concerns) Exercise Physiologists are experts in this area and we would LOVE to help you.

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https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/05/22/benefits-exercise-sleep/  – The benefits of Exercise for Sleep

https://exerciseright.com.au/can-exercise-help-you-sleep-better/  – Can Exercise Help you sleep better

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8621064 – Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300732 – Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21300732 – Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies.

Sarah Watson
hello@claritywellness.com.au


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