The secret to sleeping better while exercising? A sustained workout program that becomes ingrained into your lifestyle.

A new study, released just last week by The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, revealed some interesting new facts on the link between exercise and sleep.

man sleepingWhy can some people workout to the point of complete exhaustion but still have trouble drifting off at night?

The study examined 11 women with insomnia. After being put on a controlled exercise program, sleep patterns were tested to determine the efficacy of a workout program in assisting with better sleep habits.

The 16 week program ultimately determined that exercise is more greatly affected by sleep than sleep is affected by exercise, as the women did not experience significantly better sleep patterns. When the women did get a good night’s sleep, the next day’s workout was improved.

This might seem discouraging but let’s evaluate a prrior study on sleep quality, conducted in 2010. This study also examined the effects of exercise on sleep and it found a positive correlation – as well as a decline in depression, daytime sleepiness and an improvement in overall vitality.

Participants in this study were composed primarily of 60-year old, sedentary women and also ran for 16 weeks. They performed basic cardio exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike for 30-minute intervals.

So what was the difference?

A deeper look into the data shows that the sleep patterns were nearly identical. Participants in the second group also had a difficult time sleeping after exercise and it was only near the very end of the study that sleep improved. The data actually shows that prolonged exercise reduces the body’s reaction of stress. As exercise becomes less of a stressor, the hormones cooperate to allow for better sleep.

Perfect! This means that ongoing exercise programs provide the healthy benefits that individuals seek out and will ultimately translate into a more restful, deeper sleep.

More Effective Sleep Habits

If you’re one who struggles with sleeping well after beginning a new exercise program, consider doing your workouts in the morning. Exercise is a large stressor when it’s introduced after living a sedentary lifestyle. The body needs time to adapt.

Calm your mind with meditative techniques. One commonality between those who suffer with insomnia is the inability to relax thought and let go of everything when laying down to rest. Meditation quiets the mind and this translates into a relaxed body.

Circadian rhythms also play a large role in when you sleep and wake. Try getting to bed and waking at the same time every day. As your body is trained to complete these tasks at specific times, it will become more responsive to these times and sleep will become a more automatic process.

Avoid caffeine in the evening. Even if you aren’t affected by caffeine during the waking hours, it can play a major role in keeping your body from attaining the relaxed state required for sleep.

Sleep is one of the most important fundamentals of a healthy mind and body. It affects all of the decisions we make in our everyday lives and it’s vital for healthy mitochondria.

Exercise, eat right and sleep deep. Do it every day. You’ll feel better for it when it’s a routine part of your everyday life.

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