Insomnia, whether it’s exercise related or not, can literally drive you crazy. Sleep deprivation kills your immunity, making you more susceptible to a range of diseases (including chronic disease like diabetes).
Yes, exercise does help you sleep, so it’s a good idea to exercise regularly. But be aware that working out too late, or engaging in a very high-intensity workout too often, can do more harm than good.
Here are some tips to help you kick the sleeplessness, for good.
1. Don’t work out too close to bed time
Yes – working out is proven to help you sleep better. But there’s also lots of evidence that working out very close to your bedtime can delay your body’s natural ability to fall asleep. After all, exercise (especially intense exercise) raises the heart rate, raises your body’s core temperature and also causes your body to release epinephrine (an adrenaline).
Try to get that workout in a little earlier, so you have an hour or two after your workout to relax, before climbing into bed.
2. Take it down a notch
The latest research is showing that a very high-intensity workout can be detrimental to sleep, especially if it’s performed close to bed time.
The high intensity of the workout releases adrenaline in the body and also cortisol (a steroid that’s usually released when you’re stressed). All of this interferes with your body’s natural sleep mechanisms.
Also, high intensity workouts can cause oxidative stress. This is when there’s an imbalance between the body’s production of free radicals and its ability to neutralise their effect with antioxidants. And in case you didn’t know, free radicals or oxidants are highly reactive molecules that break down your DNA; they’re responsible for ageing, among other things.
We’re not saying your workouts need to be very mild; we’re just saying it’s a good idea to avoid too much high-intensity exercise.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking water during your workout – and after – slows the body’s response to some of the stress hormones, like cortisol, that are released during a high-intensity workout.
4. Take a hot bath after your workout, rather than watching TV
Screens (iPads, cellphones, computers and TVs) activate the brain and engage brain activity. So if you watch TV right before bed – or worse, in bed – then you must expect that it’ll take a while for your brain to wind down, and your body too. Instead of spending time in front of a screen, take a soothing hot bath, read a book or meditate, as these activities relax mind and body, making sleep much easier.
5. Cut off your caffeine intake after 5pm
Yes – a shot of caffeine before your afternoon workout is a good idea, since the caffeine helps your body rev up, so you get the most out of your workout. But try to get that espresso in before 5pm.
And if you’re not working out, then definitely ditch the coffee, because caffeine has been shown to affect the function of the adrenal gland. Too much caffeine over-works this gland, and causes it to secrete too much adrenaline. If you want to fall asleep quickly and peacefully, avoid excessive quantities of caffeine.
If the science of fitness fascinates you, then check out Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Personal Training Certification, or its Sports Conditioning certification. With these certifications, you’ll understand how and when to exercise, and how to get the best results.