A good night’s sleep is essential for all round better health. If you’re sleeping well, you’re more energised and you’re more motivated too. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to suffer from headaches, depression, low moods, anxiety and poor health. Not only that, but the less sleep we get, the more likely we are to make poor food choices too, since we tend to crave sugary and carbs to ‘boost’ our energy levels. This in turn leads to headaches, depression, low moods, weight gain… you can see it’s quite a vicious circle. So what to do? First step: make sleep a priority in your life. And if you’re struggling to do that, you need to take a moment to figure out why. And to help you, here are there exercises you can do to improve your sleep…
How does exercise help you sleep?
If you are expending energy during the day, you are going to need to recuperate and regenerate at night. And if you’re getting a really good work out, you’re more likely to sleep better too. There have been many studies into the reasons why, and some experts believe that changes in body temperature are the most likely reason why we sleep better after exercise. Others believe that there’s more to it than that.
When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins which tell our brain we’re happy. We naturally start to feel less stressed, less anxious and more relaxed. And in this state, we are more likely to be able to fall into a good sleep when it comes to switching off for the night.
Whatever the reason, experts are agreed that some exercise can be great for improving sleep, and we know already that there are a whole host of other benefits too. So what have you got to lose?
The best exercises for good sleep
Research has found that exercising earlier in the day is more likely to aid in better sleep. Working out before bedtime can cause the body to become too alert and the mind can have trouble winning down for sleep, so the earlier the better. And here are the top three exercises to try:
Yoga relaxes the body and mind, so it makes sense that it should be top of this list. But you need to be selective with the stretches and poses that you choose, because some are more energising than others. For optimum sleep opportunity, try the following:
- Upside down stretches. This can be done against a wall and requires no special skills or equipment. Simply lie flat on your back with your legs up against the wall and extend them long. If you need a deeper stretch, move your bottom closer to the wall. Breathe gently.
- Open leg stretch. Another one that can be done lying on the floor (or your bed) and this one is great for slowing the breathing and relaxing the lower limbs. Lie flat and bend your knees.Then move your legs so that the soles of your feet are touching, and allow your legs to fall to the sides, forming a diamond shape.
- Child’s pose. A firm favourite, and the perfect move for ultimate relaxation. Kneel on the floor and rest on your heels. Then lean your body forward so that your forehead rests on the floor and your arms stretch out above your head. Hold the pose and breathe.
Such a simple exercise, and one that can be done anytime, any place. Walking is not only great exercise, but it helps to calm the mind too. Plug in your earphones and switch off for half an hour. The fresh air and exercise will do wonders for your sleep.
Definitely not one to do just before you go to bed, but any form of aerobic exercise during the day is going to help with your night time sleep. Aerobic exercise means that oxygenated blood is being pumped around the body to deliver oxygen to the muscles. It gets the heart rate going and improves stamina, fitness levels and overall health. There’s no need to exhaust yourself either, as studies have found that just moderate exercise three to four times a week is enough to drastically improve your fitness level, and your sleep patterns too.
When you’re done, its important to take the time to cool down and relax the body and mind once more. Stretches are so important, and a good wind down routine is vital so that you can start to make preparations for sleep. We love ending the day with a long soak in the bath, a splash of Pure English Lavender bubble bath and a candle or two. Perfect!