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Brandon Peters, M.D.

30 Days to Better Sleep: Get Exercise at the Right Time

By January 13, 2013

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Chances are that, unlike the man pictured above, you won't fall asleep while exercising. Quite to the contrary, exercise is alerting and revs up both the body and mind. If it is poorly timed, this may make it more difficult to fall asleep, leading to insomnia. Why does exercise disrupt sleep? When is the best time to exercise?

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. You can keep yourself strong and in shape. It can improve your mood. It is a great way to maintain a healthy weight and avoid unwanted medical problems. Staying fit may also help you to sleep more soundly at night. The timing of this exercise may be important, however.

There are physical changes that occur during exercise. Your heart rate and breathing rate will increase. Your body temperature will rise. Hormones such as adrenaline will course through you. Your brain will become more alert. Some of these changes may have a negative effect on your sleep.

People with insomnia endure difficulty falling or staying asleep. They tend to be light sleepers. Some research suggests that their body temperature is slightly at higher at night. By partaking in an alerting activity that raises the body temperature, exercise may make it harder to fall asleep. Not everyone will be adversely affected by exercise at night, but for those who are susceptible, it may be necessary to choose a different time to exercise.

According to guidelines to improve sleep, it is recommended that exercise be avoided in the 4 hours preceding sleep. For most people, this may eliminate exercise in the evening hours. If you can fall and stay asleep easily, there may not be a reason to change the time that you exercise. However, if you struggle to sleep at night, it may be recommended to exercise in the morning. If you can go for a walk or run outside in the morning upon awakening, this will be a great way to start your day and it will be less likely to disrupt your sleep at night.

If you are seeking ways to sleep better at night and you have difficulties with insomnia, you might change the timing of your exercise regimen. By moving your exercise to the morning, you will avoid potential negative effects on your sleep at night and also be able to incorporate light exposure in the morning, another way to sleep better.

Check out the entire series, "How to Sleep Better in 30 Days."

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