Nearly half of all Americans report that they struggle with sleep. From battling racing thoughts that keep your to-do list on constant repeat to sensitive reactions to every noise and movement, you may not only toss and turn to find a comfortable position, but find yourself waking up throughout the night. Not only does this make for a disruptive nighttime routine, but that 9 a.m. conference call probably comes far faster than you’d like.
One way to help make that race toward shut-eye speedier is to schedule in a workout. But when should you pencil it in? Fitness professional Nikki Glor explains that according to research, engaging in aerobic exercise early in the morning will help your body prepare for resting later in the evening, providing a deeper path into dreamland.
But there’s also an argument for working out later in the day: “Afternoon aerobic activity can assist in beating insomnia, help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. This could be due to the fact that the exercise raises your body temperature and a few hours afterwards, the temperature drops again, which suggests to your body to switch into sleep mode,” she says.
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For fitness professional Michele Gordon, the best time to work out is whenever you can commit to making your workout consistent.
“It’s a common belief that working out too close to bedtime is not good because it overstimulates the body. However, this depends on the person,” she says. “For example, whenever I teach or go for an evening run, I end up sleeping like a baby! If you discover that nighttime exercise makes it harder for you to sleep, then schedule time earlier in the day for your workouts. To prevent overstimulation, it’s a good rule of thumb to finish exercise at least three hours before bedtime so you have time to cool off.”
Need some inspiration for workouts that’ll make you sleepy? From yoga to kickboxing, here’s what the pros recommend.
Go for a run
Beautiful day outside? Take advantage of warm weather and fresh air with a run outside, either in the morning or night. This is a great option if you’re not super-comfortable in a class setting or you’re new to exercise. You can take your jog, run or sprint at your own pace while still getting the sleepy-time vibes you’re seeking.
“Running is an aerobic activity that reduces stress, boosts mood, increases alertness, releases endorphins,” Gordon says. “The high will leave you feeling good and since running is hard, you’ll need the rest when it’s time to go bed. It’s what your body will naturally crave.”
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Try a standing forward bend
When you’re attempting to get sleepy, a few yoga poses can help get you into the mood to catch zzz’s after you practice your oms according to yoga, Pilates and barre instructor Emily McLaughlin. She suggests a standing forward bend, a frequent yoga go-to position, but with a bedtime twist.
“Place a pillow or some folded blankets on a chair and place the chair in front of you. Inhale to take your arms up overhead to lengthen the spine and exhale to fold forward at your hips until your forehead rests on the pillow,” she instructs. “Then rest your arms on the pillow as well and relax them completely. Stay for 10 to 15 long, deep breaths or for as long as you can comfortably rest. Inverting your upper body this way soothes the nervous system and decompresses the spine.”
Lift some weights
Cardio as your only routine won’t produce the chiseled bod that you might be aiming for, while simply lifting weights won’t burn fat either. However, pumping iron can help you get sleepy since it’s demanding on your whole body.
“Weight-lifting challenges your mind and body to become stronger. It releases hormones that act as an antidepressant, which can help you to fall asleep faster. Similar to running, when you challenge your muscles with resistance training, your body will need the sleep to rejuvenate,” Gordon explains.
Put your legs up the wall
Another yoga move that works to help you feel rested? McLaughlin says with your legs up the wall, you will gradually ease your racing thoughts and worries. You can either do this against your wall or the headboard of your bed, depending on how fast you want to go to sleep. Then, just as it sounds, keep them up and relax.
“This gentle inversion helps slow your system down. Let gravity take over and feel your legs become heavier in your hip sockets. Remain here for 5 to 10 minutes,” she says. “To come out of this pose, gently slide yourself away from the wall and off your blankets, roll to your right side and push yourself up with your arms.”
Have fun with cardio kickboxing or dancing
To blow off steam, release tension and leave you smiling at the end of your workout, cardio kickboxing and dancing are great options to get you in the right mindset to chill out.
“Aerobic activity helps to improve your mood, digestion, energy, overall health and more. After a cardio workout, you’ll feel the increase in your body temperature and then overtime, your body will cool off and get tired,” Gordon says. “Similar to the workouts, when you sweat hard, your body will need the rest.”
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Practice the Camel
Had one of those no-good, terrible, very bad days and you’re now going over every last detail obsessively? We’ve all been there, and Glor says to combat that anxiety, you need a position that will soothe you without being overly complicated. She suggests the Camel or as you may know it, Cat-Cow.
You might remember the Camel pose from that Bikram yoga class your best friend talked you into, but that same bent-over-backward feeling can be helpful to getting you to dreamland. Here, you sit up on your knees while bending your head behind you as far as you can, while placing your hands on your heel for a feel-good, stress-relieving stretch.
“This is a heart opener but also relieves tension or stress in your back that could come from sitting at a desk all day,” she shares.
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