Can Hitting the Gym Really Help You Sleep Better?

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Can Hitting the Gym Really Help You Sleep Better?

Long-term exercise can totally help with insomnia—but don\’t expect results right away.

It’s long been thought that exercise can help you catch more Zs, but new research shows that it may take more time to kick in than we think. For those with serious sleep disturbances, they may be in it for the long run—no pun intended (oh, who am I kidding, I always intend to make puns.)

What the research says

Often, people expect that they’ll be out like a light if they’ve worked out that day. But a study has found that even with consistent exercise, it takes a while for people to adjust to their new lower levels of brain activity at night—so don’t necessarily expect to reap the fatiguing rewards of your interval training that very night.

What to do

The key, according to the researchers, is to be persistent with your exercise routine. They found that over a 16-week period, insomniacs that began exercising regularly experienced better sleep, improved vitality, and better moods. The researchers also found a cyclic relationship between sleep and exercise—the more we sleep, the more we exercise; the more we exercise, the more we sleep; but the less we sleep, the less inclined we are to hit the gym. Exercising to get enough sleep is important, because it motivates us to get more exercise!

If you still find yourself tossing and turning, try:

  • pre-bedtime yoga, which can help you to nod off more quickly.
  • minimizing light pollution, a common cause of sleepless nights in our modern, artificially-lit world.
  • taking melatonin, a natural compound that can improve sleep quality and morning alertness.

The author of the study on exercise recommends hanging a motivational note next to your mirror, to get yourself out the door with your running shoes even when the couch is calling your name. How do you motivate yourself to get to the gym on the days that you just aren’t feeling it?

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