Thursday, September 12, 2019

Use exercise to improve your sleeping habits

Last week I covered the fact that our genes determine when we feel sleepy and when we are most awake. At the end of the article, I mentioned that I will be doing an experiment to see whether you can use exercise to change your natural sleeping cycle. The answer is probably not that shocking to those who know how beneficial it is: Exercise is a great way to re-configure your sleeping routine! Here's how:

How exercise can improve your sleeping routine

The more I cover different health and lifestyle topics, the more I learn about how exercise seems to solve almost everything. Read on to discover how you can change your sleep patterns with the power of exercise.

1. Exercise increases sleep need

There are two major problems with a sleeping pattern that does not match your lifestyle. One of them is the fact that your body will want to sleep when you need to be awake. The other one is that it can be hard for you to fall asleep when you need to (if you struggle to fall asleep, learn how to fall asleep faster here). By increasing sleep need, or sleep pressure, you improve your chances of falling asleep at the right time and getting a higher quality sleep.

Exercise will help you to fall asleep faster because it gives the body something that it needs to physically recover from. It also helps to deplete energy stores so that you don't have a bundle of energy when it is time to calm down and prepare for sleep. Thirdly, exercise boosts your brain's resilience to stress or anxiety. Regular exercise will reduce the negative effects of cortisol - the stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels at night time will lead to wakefulness and worrying about everything under the sun. Lastly, hormones that are needed for a good night's sleep are stimulated as a direct result of exercise. These hormones include human growth hormone

Regular exercise will therefore improve your ability to sleep when you need to. It will also help the muscles in your body to be more relaxed when you aren't exercising. I think of regular exercise as giving my body a reason to sleep.

2. Exercise improves sleep quality

If part of the problem is the fact that you can't sleep when you need to, sleep quality will have a major effect on your sleeping habits. If you don't get enough high quality sleep at the right time, you will spend the rest of the following day trying to stay awake. For the same reasons listed above, exercise improves sleep quality and will therefore improve your energy levels the following day. Exercise improves sleep quality by increasing sleep need.

3. Exercising at certain times of the day will train your body to have more energy when you need it

Remember that there are two major components to correcting your sleeping habits. One of them is being able to sleep (and have high quality sleep) when you need to. The second one is being awake and energetic when you need to be. By exercising at the times when you need to have the most energy, you train your body to produce and use more energy during these times. If you exercise at the same time every day, your body will adapt by increasing its energy levels at those times. You can do this by exercising at your desired 'peak energy' times for two weeks in a row. You will notice that after the second week you don't feel that tired anymore.

I exercised in the morning to increase my energy levels

Personally, the first half of the day was the time where I had the least amount of energy. This is because I am a night owl by nature and it takes me longer to wake up than most people. Even though I repeatedly did the same tasks as everybody else, my energy levels stayed low in the mornings because I am naturally inclined to feel more awake at night. 

My experiment involved me doing an exercise as soon as I woke up. I would do push-ups, squats or planks before my eyes were fully opened. Granted, I didn't do half as much as I would if I did these exercises at a different time of the day (and it took a lot more motivation than usual to get them done in the first place), but the increased blood flow and oxygen woke me right up within a few seconds. 

The energy-boosting effects were immediate. After a few days, I now have more natural energy in the mornings than I ever had. I wish I could say that I also need less motivation to exercise first thing in the morning after a week, but I haven't got there just yet.

How to implement exercise during your peak times

My experiment was relatively easy for me. This is because mornings were my biggest issue and it is not too difficult to exercise in the morning when you are still in your room. If you have the biggest energy drop in the middle of the day, it might be more difficult. It is not so easy to drop and do 20 push-ups in the office in front of everybody. You can't exactly do that either if you're driving down the freeway. Thankfully, there are sneaky ways to boost your energy levels without looking like a chop.

How to sneak in exercise when they aren't so convenient 

I've got you covered. Try out a few of these ideas to see what works best for you:

If you need to boost your energy levels while at the office:

  • Get up from your desk and take a brisk walk. This will fire up the mitochondria in your cells and get them turning calories into energy.
  • Hit the gym during your lunch break.
  • Drink more water and let nature remind you to get up every half an hour. Water on its own is a great energy booster, since every cell in your body needs it to function optimally. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to get some Vitamin C while you're at it.
  • Exercise in the bathroom
  • Choose to get up and speak to a co-worker or manager instead of simply sending an email
  • Use the rest of your lunch break to walk around and listen to music

If you need to boost your energy levels while driving

What if there were exercises that you can do to correct bad posture from sitting in a car seat for too long? Raffi TopCareChiro has you covered! Check out this great way to improve your posture while driving and loosen up stiff muscles whenever you hit a traffic light:

And if you want to take it up a notch, check out this calorie burning, muscle strengthening driving workout from Ando Mierzwa:

Exercise has so many health benefits. You can reap all of these benefits while using exercise to sleep better at night and explode with energy during the day. Stay Strong!

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