When you suffer from stress, it can affect almost every aspect of your life, even down to the quality of your sleep at night. While it’s normal to feel stress from time to time, if it continues to affect your long-term sleep, it can lead to poorer sleep quality and even insomnia.
But our recent review suggests that physical activity may be essential for improving both stress levels and sleep.
To conduct our review, we looked at all possible studies ever published on this topic. About 60% of the studies we reviewed were done on women with breast cancer, while the remaining 40% were done on a more diverse range of participants, including men and women without breast cancer. breast. It’s unclear why so many studies in this area have focused on women with breast cancer, but it may be related to the fact that chemotherapy causes many side effects, such as stress and poor sleep.
Our results suggest that, in general, exercise was effective in reducing stress levels and improving sleep. Other studies involving a more diverse group of participants have also shown that physical activity can help less stress and can help people get a a better night’s sleep. Research also suggests that exercise may benefit people with other health conditions such as the Depression Where sleep disturbances.
Cortisol is a essential hormone in the body. It works with our brain to regulate a number of important bodily processes, including mood, immune system function, and metabolism. It also triggers our “fight or flight” response when we encounter scary or stressful things – that’s why it’s often called our “stress hormone”.
Cortisol also plays an important role in sleep. Cortisol levels change throughout the day, but are generally at their peak in the morningaround 30-45 mins after waking up, helping us feel alert and ready to face the day. But gradually, these levels decrease throughout the day, which helps us feel tired and fall asleep at night.
But in times of stress, you may experience higher cortisol levels in the evening, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep in turn increases stress by affecting how the body produces cortisol.
According to our review, physical activity counteracts this negative spiral by regulating cortisol levels – which simultaneously improves sleep quality. We found that light to moderate intensity exercise (like running and yoga) appear to be the most beneficial for improving stress and sleep. But our study also suggests that exercise is more effective at reducing stress and improving sleep when it’s tailored to individual preferences.
Why Exercise Works
Previous research suggests a few possible reasons why exercise is so good at reducing stress and improving sleep.
First of all, exercise can be seen as a “hormetic” stressor. Hormesis is that kind of good stress that keeps your body alert. During exercise, your body is exposed to various forms of stress, such as stress your muscle experience because of the additional demand placed on them. These stressors simulate the existing mechanisms your body uses to resist greater stress.
Too little or too much exposure to exercise-related stressors can lead to bad health. That’s it sweet spot which regulates cortisol and improves sleep (and overall health). But this sweet spot differs from person to person – and may even be affected by your own mental state when you exercise.
Second, it’s important to consider the type of exercise you do, as this can determine whether you feel relaxed or more stressed. That’s why it’s essential that you enjoy the exercise you’re doing. You can also change the intensity of the exercise you do depending on the time of day.
Since exercise releases cortisol (especially more intense types of exercise, such as weight lifting or high-intensity interval training), morning exercise can help your body feel more energetic during the day and helps you feel more tired at night. For this same reason, if you’re someone who likes to exercise in the evening, it’s best to choose exercises – like yoga or tai chi – that help you relax and not overwork. cortisol levels.
But of course, not everyone can exercise first thing in the morning. The good news is that exercising almost any time of the day can help lower your stress levels and improve your sleep — and that’s true for almost any type of exercise, too.