Anyone who has experienced the frustration and exhaustion that comes with insomnia will know that they will try just about anything to help them drift off – and stay asleep.
But before you resort to pills, potions or embracing a nocturnal lifestyle – there is something really simple you can try that could improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise.
You may think it sounds too good to be true – but working out in the right way can really help in your quest for regular slumber.
We asked Joshua Pearson, fitness expert at Exercise.co.uk, for is advice on how to use fitness to help you sleep better – and he had some really practical suggestions. ‘Generally speaking, almost any variety of exercise has a positive impact on your sleep,’ Josh tells Metro.co.uk.
Burpees are an extremely exertive full body aerobic exercise, meaning that it is a huge calorie burner.
You can do them anywhere, anytime (within reason) and it will be ridiculously useful to burn off extra energy, both physically and mentally.
Burpees are an excellent way to help you be more tired when you should be and regulate your tired feelings back to what they should be throughout the day.
Squats are a much more variable exercise than the burpees. That’s useful on its own, letting you use them differently depending on how you like to exercise.
They can be used as an anaerobic weight training exercise, or a cardio exercise as part of a circuit. Either way, they burn a massive number of calories because they demand the work of large muscle groups like your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and pretty much everything in between.
That’s incredibly effective not only for calorie burn, but for raising your resting energy expenditure too.
That’s what helps you to use more energy even outside of your workouts and help you drift off to sleep without that excess energy on a night time.
Swimming is another awesome full-body cardiovascular exercise that is outstanding for several things.
It’s up there with the best cardio exercises since it uses every part of your body efficiently, and it raises your heart rate at the same time.
It builds muscle and burns calories, which are the big benefits of the above exercises, while helping you to do something functionally effective too.
The increased energy burn plus the cardio benefits of increased lung function and heart health can help you relax more comfortably with more energy burned after you’ve powered through some lengths of the pool.
Taking things down a notch, walking is a simple, convenient and effective way to help sleep as well. It may seem a little basic, but bear with us.
Walking is a prime example of LISS (low-intensity steady state) training; the principle is that you’re burning calories over a prolonged period.
It won’t get your heart rate up like a lot of more intensive exercises do, but it is great for calming you down while still exercising.
In fact, it burns more fat per calorie burned than most other exercises could dream of (just not as many calories in total; bare that in mind).
Even right before you go to bed, walking is a great way to exercise the body while calming the mind and putting you in the best possible position to drift off peacefully.
To help settle your mind, focus on the movement of your body while you walk; the feel of your feet on the floor and the sounds around you. This will help you keep present and focused, which is proven to help wind your mind down and prime you for sleep.
Cobra, lotus, warrior, downward dog
Yoga comes in too many different forms to mention here, but we’re going more specific with the more calming and relaxing poses.
Things like the cobra, lotus, warrior, downward facing dog and even the tree pose are all awesome ways to stretch out your muscles, get some good isometric exercise, and really centre yourself.
Yoga really comes into its own when you focus on your breathing throughout the stretches. Concentrate on your exhalations and inhalations to again focus the mind and bring it into a relaxed and peaceful state to really reap the benefits.
It’s actually a great example of meditative exercise.
‘Give any of these five exercise strategies a blast to wipe off extra energy that might be contributing to keeping you awake at night,’ suggests Joshua.
‘It’ll help get yourself into not only a better night’s sleep, but a better sleeping routine altogether.
‘Exercise is also a proven and brilliant way to reduce anxiety, stress and lower blood pressure, all of which can be major inhibitors to sleeping on a night, so you’ll get the knock-on benefits of this too. Break a sweat and sleep well.’