Sleep and exercise are said to be perfect bedfellows. A good night’s sleep can enhance workout performance, reduce the risk of injuries, and keep the body and muscles healthy. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can weaken one’s immunity.
Raj Sipani, a 35-year-old entrepreneur and fitness enthusiast from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, recalls how he experienced the benefits of an excellent sleep pattern once he started working out regularly.
“I have been working out for more than ten years now, and what began as a hobby has now become my passion,” Sipani says. “I go to the gym every day — mostly in the evenings after work — not just for fitness but [also because] it reduces the day-to-day stress and tension. I usually manage to get a good, deep sleep after my workouts as my body feels light and fresh, and the endorphins contribute to my happy state the next day.”
How sleep, exercise connection works
Exercise has a chemical effect by creating more adenosine in the brain, and adenosine makes us feel sleepy. Some recent studies have found that high-intensity exercise results in a significant increase of the sleep-promoting substance adenosine.
It is widely understood that physical activity leads to the body becoming fatigued and, therefore, boosts sleep. What is also important is that it contributes to overall health in a big way. “This is because physical activity is known to improve the quality as well as duration of sleep,” says Dr Sudheer Kumar Tyagi, a neurosurgeon with Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. “It is actually a kind of a treatment for people who suffer from insomnia and helps in stopping the usage of sleeping pills, which may be detrimental in the long run.”
A June 2021 study on the effects of exercise on sleep quality and insomnia in adults found that regular physical as well as mind–body exercises primarily improved subjective sleep quality rather than physiological sleep quality in adults.
Jesmin Singh, a 29-year-old copywriter from Delhi, has added yoga, dance and Pilates to her fitness routine following her doctor’s advice. “I have a desk job, so I was not very active physically and was having difficulty falling asleep at nights,” she says. “Now, I sleep better as I get exhausted post work and my physical activities.”
Don’t exercise too much or too close to bedtime
But high-intensity workouts done too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep patterns in most people — barring athletes, whose bodies are used to a different level of activity altogether.
According to a 2019 study, exercising too close to bedtime might have negative effects on sleep quality and the time taken to fall asleep. So, exercising one hour before going to bed is a big no-no.
Good sleep and good health
“When we need to check whether we are healthy or not, we need to see whether we can fall asleep naturally and wake up naturally,” says Dr Pallavi Aga, nutritionist and lifestyle management consultant, Mind, Body and Wellness Clinic, Noida, Uttar Pradesh. “That really is the hallmark of good health.”
She says that exercise promotes well-being in the body, and the body gets stronger and better. That said, too much exercise too close to bedtime is not good. “I always say work out in the morning so that one can get the benefit of happy hormones the whole day long,” says Dr Aga.
I am suffering from insomnia. I have been taking sleeping pills for the last 26 years but I haven’t found the reasons for my insomnia
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