Exercise is credited with helping a person sleep better at night and even fighting insomnia. But according to new research, it takes some time in spin class, on the treadmill or other aerobic workouts before you find relief from tossing and turning.
A tough workout today will probably help you get a good night’s sleep — just not necessarily tonight.
One Northwestern University study found those suffering from insomnia experienced a better night’s sleep the day after 30 minutes of aerobics rather than sleeping soundly the same night of an aerobic workout. The lack of immediate benefits after exercise can discourage women, who often throw in the towel if a day or two of tough workouts don’t help them sleep better.
“If you have insomnia, you won’t exercise yourself into sleep right away,” said Kelly Glazer Baron, a clinical psychologist, director of the Behavioral Sleep Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. “It’s a long-term relationship. You have to keep at it and not get discouraged.”
Why the time delay? It’s believed genetics may be responsible for insomnia, according to a separate new study from the University of Oxford. Insomnia also is linked with heightened brain activity, so experts theorize that it takes more time for the sedating effects of exercise to kick in.
Glazer’s research also found sleep affects exercise; people exercise less the day after a bad night’s sleep.
“Sleeping poorly doesn’t change your aerobic capacity, but it changes people’s perception of their exertion,” Baron said in a release. “They feel more exhausted.“
The researchers stress that patience and persistent are the secrets to exercise facilitating sleep.
“People have to realize that even if they don’t want to exercise, that’s the time they need to dig in their heels and get themselves out there,” Baron said. “Write a note on your mirror that says, ‘Just Do It!’ It will help in the long run.”