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Can’t sleep? Try exercising to sleep better

Updated: Dec 1, 2021


I’m sure you have heard it before: exercising is good for you. We are constantly flooded with new research, data, and experts’ opinions as to why physical activity is essential for our optimal health. But the research is not only about the benefits of exercising, but more and more data also show how lack of exercising is harmful to us.


The World Health Organization states that inactivity (or a sedentary lifestyle) increases the risk of illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, or can even lead to death. This in itself should motivate us to take up exercising, right?


There may be many reasons as to why we don’t get enough physical activity. If you’re thinking about picking up running again, and you haven’t been running for a while, your level of fitness may be the factor stopping you from starting. It seems that our level of fitness is an indicator of when we go for a run or not. But it doesn’t have to be. The trick here is that you can still exercise, no matter your level of fitness. Maybe you won’t start with climbing the highest mountain, but you can walk up that hill. You can reduce the intensity and speed of the exercise, but don’t stop exercising all together.


However, in today’s blog, I want to show you the relationship between physical activity, your stress response, and getting a good night sleep. The link between those three factors is so powerful that it may just help you to get motivated. I even created a special downloadable 5 simple strategies to stop the mental stress and get a good night sleep cheat sheet for you so you can add some exercising into your day!




But first things first. Let’s have a look at why you should exercise at all.


Why exercising is good for you.

Physical activity is good for your body and your mind.


Exercising improves the blood circulation in your body, so fresh oxygen and nutrients can be delivered to every cell in your body. Exercising strengthens your bones and improves your muscle functions. It improves your immune system, which is responsible for fighting any infections and illnesses. It helps with your cardiorespiratory system and strengthens the heart.


But getting physical activity is also good for your mind. A recent study shows that physical activity can help with fighting mood disorders such as depression. During exercise, certain chemicals, such as endorphins are being released into your bloodstream. Endorphins are the ‘natural pain killers’ which help with elevating your mood.


However, when we think about exercising, we think about weight loss. Almost all weight loss programs incorporate some sort of physical activity as the main factor linked to losing weight. And although we know it works, the advertising is not doing anything good to incorporate physical activity into our daily routines. If you exercise and go to the gym only because you want to lose weight, once you reach your perfect weight, the exercising routine disappears. After all, you associate exercising with something you ’have to’ do, and we are not very responsive when we feel forced to do something which we may not particularly like that much doing.


If we look at how beneficial exercising is for us, we need to address the negative effects of not exercising too.


Inactivity is very dangerous to your health. We can list the reversed effects such as lack of fresh blood delivered to our cells, weak muscular and skeletal systems, an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. And to get more technical, fatty plaque starts clinging to our arterial walls, causing atherosclerosis and chronic hypertension which can end up in heaa rt attack or a stroke.

Inactivity can also reduce our ability to manage stress and get a proper night's sleep.


Physical activity and stress

At the beginning of the post, I mention that lack of fitness can be a reason why we don’t exercise. But so can be stress. Stress can stop you from getting physical activity. How?


Going back to our hunter-gather ancestors, stress (and stress response) was a survival mechanism. The danger in the form of a tiger was always lurking and if encountered, we needed a fast reaction. During stress, our body goes into the flight or fight response, where our bloodstream is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol so our heart will beat faster, and our muscles will be prepared to act. However, after the danger passes, the hormones settle down and our body goes back to its normal state.

Unless we are stuck in our stress response, that is.


In today’s world stress comes from so many directions that our stress receptors get locked. Unfortunately, but our bodies and minds are not designed to cope with the constant float of stress. It taxes our immune system, our muscles are weak and our energy levels are low. It’s hard to get up and go to exercise when you’re tired all the time.


Ironically one of the best stress management techniques is body movement. There is nothing better than to sweat the stress out of our system. Physical activity can help with changing the chemical composition and reduce the impact of cortisol on our bodies.


In addition, because we released some good hormones (remember endorphins?), our thinking gets clearer, and we can see solutions presenting themselves. You will be able to tackle those daily stressors and manage them in a healthier way.


Physical activity is truly a great remedy to stress. We let stress to control our emotions and behaviours because stress can make us feel out of control. If we don’t know how to handle the situation around us, we can’t get control over it and make a healthy decision. But exercise can give us that needed sense of control. After all, during exercise, we can control our body, our behaviour and we feel we are in charge of our health and wellbeing because we’re doing something good for us.


And above all, physical activity can help you with sleep.



How physical activity can help you to sleep better

Thanks to exercising you reduced your stress response. This means you are calmer and ready to rest.

Exercising tires your muscles out, which means that they are ready for rest. And the best rest you can give them is through sleep.


During exercise, your muscle tissue is being broken down, which means your muscles need to be rebuilt which can be done during sleep. During the deep stages of sleep, your body produces the growth hormone which helps with rebuilding your muscles.


Therefore, the more exercise you do, the more rest aka sleep your muscles and your body will get. And the more sleep you get, the stronger your body and mind will be.


Conclusion

We all know that physical activity is good for us. The benefits are endless starting with increased blood circulation, improving our heart, immune system, strengthening our muscles, losing weight to acting as prevention of life-threatening diseases.


But physical activity plays a major role in fighting against daily stress as well as it helps us to prepare us for better sleep. Exercise tires our muscles which makes them ready for rest and good quality sleep. The more tired you are, the better quality sleep you will get. And when you’re rested and energised, you are ready to tackle whatever daily stress life throws your way.


Are you ready to get moving? Get this downloadable 5 simple strategies to stop the mental stress and get a good night sleep cheat sheet and add some exercising into your day!


Having problems with managing your stress? Go on: www.annadoktor.com.au to find out more about Anna Doktor Wellness Coaching and how I can help you to beat the overwhelm once and for all. Alternatively, send me an email at anna@annadoktor.com.au or call to have a chat to see how we can work together tel: 0498016440.



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