Sufficient sleep and the right dose of exercise make us healthier and more efficient. Find out here how you should design your training session to get a really good night's sleep!
Table of contents
- How does sport affect sleep?
- The decisive factors - #1 The right time
- The decisive factors - #2 The right intensity
- Main thing in motion
How does sport affect sleep?
Good sleep is important so that we can start the next day fresh and fit. Those who exercise regularly improve their sleep quality. Regular exercise has a positive effect on falling asleep and, according to a recent study, even improves sleep quality by up to 65%!
Especially those who have only occasional or very slight problems with falling asleep or sleeping through the night can benefit from moderate and regular sporting activity. Even a 30-minute sporting activity, which is carried out about 4 hours before going to bed, has a positive effect on sleep behaviour. These were the results of a scientific study conducted by the founder of smartsleep, Dr. Markus Dworak, at the German Sport University in Cologne. The test persons fell asleep more quickly in the nights after exercise, had a higher percentage of deep sleep and a generally improved sleep quality. Sport and sleep are therefore in a healthy correlation.
The reason for the positive effects is primarily the positive effects of physical activity on the metabolism and the messenger substances in the muscles and brain. But when is sport really beneficial for sleep?
The decisive factors for sleep-promoting sport
#1 The right time
In order to achieve a positive effect on sleep behaviour, the time of physical activity is crucial. Exercise and effort stimulate the cardiovascular system and metabolism and have a positive and even stimulating effect on our nervous system. Intensive exercise shortly before going to bed is therefore not advisable and can have a rather negative effect on falling asleep.
Sports scientists at ETH Zurich have evaluated 23 studies. Their findings: anyone who exercises intensively less than one hour before going to bed actually runs the risk of taking longer to fall asleep and getting less sleep.
For an acute positive effect on sleep, moderate training sessions 2-4 hours before going to bed are therefore recommended. People who exercise regularly also generally show better sleep behaviour. With regular training, morning or mid-morning exercise units are also useful.
Tip: Do intensive training units in the morning or in the morning and rest in the last hour before going to bed in the evening.
#2 The right intensity
Heavy loads strain us mentally and physically and therefore require a longer recovery phase. So the closer the sporting activity is to bedtime, the lower the intensity should be, so that body and mind can come to rest and fall asleep relaxed.
Moderate endurance training, such as cycling, jogging or walking, is best suited to be active in the evening and improve the quality of sleep at night. However, intensive weight training should be avoided. Competitive team sports also stimulate the body too much in the evening and have a negative effect on falling asleep and sleep quality.
Tip: In the evening rather go for a moderate jogging session or a relaxing yoga session.
The main thing is to be on the move
In the end, the most important thing for our health and sleep is that we are active at all. Even with short or less intensive exercise units we can contribute to our health and a good night's sleep, because "a good combination of sleep, sport and a healthy diet are not only the central building blocks for physical performance, but also for health and well-being", says sleep expert Dr. Markus Dworak.
Sleep promotes regeneration and athletic performance, while regular exercise improves sleep quality and falling asleep
Sporting activity of medium intensity a few hours before going to bed has a positive effect on falling asleep, sleep quality and deep sleep
The best time for more intensive sports is in the morning and in the morning, while in the evening before going to bed, moderate endurance sports should be practiced
Alexandra Kredlow, Michelle C. Capozzoli, Bridget A. Hearon, Amanda W. Calkins, Michael W. Otto; "The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review" in Journal of Behavioral Medicine issue 3/2015. link
Jan Stutz, Remo Eiholzer, Christina M. Spengler: Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis in Sports Medicine, issue 2/2019. Link
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