Exercise and sleep have a symbiotic relationship: Exercise improves sleep and sleep improves exercise. The better you sleep, the more energy you will have to dedicate to your workout. Sleep is also necessary for muscle-building and recovery. You have probably already added exercise to your routine and may be seeing how it improves your sleep. But, if you are not getting enough rest and struggling during workouts, here are a few tips for a good night’s sleep:
Your body’s circadian rhythm helps keep track of time and regulate. So, for example, the hormone cortisol is high in the morning, giving you energy to wake up and tackle your day, whereas the hormone melatonin increases at night, helping you sleep. Your body needs exposure to natural light in order to maintain this cycle, but many of us spend so much time indoors and rarely see the sun.
A study of people with insomnia found that subjects who were exposed to bright light fell asleep faster and slept significantly better compared with those who were not exposed to light. Based on this study, aim to get outside for at least a few minutes during the day; if you live in a location where there are extended periods with limited sunlight, consider investing in a light therapy lamp.
Although exposure to light is beneficial during the day, it can have the opposite effect in the evening. Even looking at your phone screen before bed can throw off your rhythm. Exposure to too much light at night suppresses melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
Instead of taking your phone or laptop with you to bed, bring a good book instead. Dim the lights at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep to send your body a signal that it’s almost bedtime and encourage the release of relaxation hormones.
Caffeine can be beneficial for exercise, but because it’s a stimulant it can keep you up at night. If you like a cup or two of coffee to get you going in the morning, have your last cup before noon to ensure a good night’s sleep.
You may think a glass of wine helps you relax at night and fall asleep faster, but alcohol actually disrupts melatonin production, throwing off your sleep cycles. It can also worsen sleep apnea and snoring, which can prevent restful sleep.
There are many foods and supplements that can promote or prevent sleep. First, avoid eating heavy, salty or high-sugar foods right before bed. These can cause blood sugar highs and lows or make you feel too uncomfortable to get proper rest. Also avoid foods like chocolate or tea that have caffeine.
To support sleep, eat a balanced meal at least an hour before you go to bed. Consider adding in a few supplements that can help you relax, like magnesium, melatonin, valerian root or L-theanine. A cup of herbal tea right before bed can also improve relaxation.
Where you sleep can impact how well you sleep. Make sure the temperature is comfortable, and invest in a quality mattress, sheets and pillows. Consider spritzing some lavender around the room, which can help promote relaxation.
When you work out can also impact your sleep. Morning exercise tends to promote the best sleep, whereas exercise right before bed can keep you awake. Try to get your workout in at least two hours before bedtime.
Focusing on improving your sleep quality will directly translate to better workouts and better results. The goal should be at least seven to eight hours of sleep nightly to support your training routine.
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