Do you sleep better by exercising more?

12 July 2022

Sufficient exercise and a good night's sleep are essential for a healthy and happy body. But did you know that you can also improve the quality of your sleep by moving or exercising longer? Why is it that more exercise leads to better sleep? And how can you optimise the benefits of exercise for your body? Here are the golden rules of sleep.

Sleep less, weigh more

A lack of sleep or a sleep disorder (e.g. sleep apnoea) can trigger a domino effect in which at least 10 different mechanisms lose their synchrony. A lot of these mechanisms affect body weight.

First, levels of the stress hormone cortisol will rise. This can keep you awake at night and also affects glucose metabolism, or the way your body stores fat. Moreover, when you sleep less, you tend to eat more because leptin, the hormone that gives your brain the signal 'I'm full, I'm satiated', is suppressed. As the final element in the triple threat, ghrelin levels also rise when you don't sleep well. Ghrelin is also known as the hunger hormone. This hormone is produced in your intestines and makes you crave carbohydrates.

By exercising, you immediately call a halt to the first of these chain reactions, because exercise lowers cortisol levels. Most people only start to feel the impact of the stress they had during the day at night. Exercising immediately helps get rid of this problem.

Move more, sleep more

Cardio exercises in particular have already proven to reduce the first signs of insomnia in healthy people. In addition, resistance exercises, such as weight lifting, are also particularly beneficial for all aspects of sleep. They increase the quality of sleep and can reduce anxiety and depression.

Striving for deep sleep

The best body repair magic occurs during deep sleep. During this sleep phase without eye movements, the body works to repair your muscles, bones and body tissues. Once deep sleep turns into REM sleep (also called dream sleep, where REM stands for 'rapid eye movement' or rapid eye movements), the parts of your brain that you use to learn are stimulated. So exercise can help prolong that deep sleep phase.

How do you become an early riser?

Here, it is important that you strive for consistency. Exercising or working out in the morning is one of the best things you can do before you sleep. Ideally, you can link your workout to daylight, walking at dawn, for example. Get up at the same time every day, and start the day with a light breakfast. If every day starts at the same time, you give your brain a strong signal to suppress the production of melatonin - the hormone that helps you fall asleep.

At the same time, the happiness hormones dopamine and serotonin spike and since this gives your body the hormones it needs to feel good, this can also help you fight depression and boost your general mood.

What type of exercise creates optimal sleep or when it is best to exercise, there is no magic formula for that. Most recommendations recommend leaving a few hours between exercise and bedtime to allow your body temperature, heart rate and adrenaline levels to return to normal after exercise. However, one timing is not always optimal for another, so you will have to experiment a bit. Good luck!