Exercising and sleep

A place for Sleepio members to discuss the relationship between exercise and sleep problems.

Posted 16 Jan 2014 at 9:51 AM
  • 15 comments
  • 3 helped

Comments

  • Sleepio Member

    • 31 comments
    • 14 helped
    Graduate

    More than a year ago, I started to do some weightlifting. I thought it would improve my sleep, because my body would be more active (rest of the time is sedentary, office work).

    The weightlifting soon became a new hobby/sport, but instead of decreasing insomnia, it became much worse! Also, my performance went down instead of up (Now I'm lifting less than say 6 months ago).
    So the result is that my body is extremely tired, but not recovering at all..

    Now that I'm doing this sleepio course, I'm taking a 2 month break from weightlifting (sleep restriction and exercise, can't imagine those two can be combined).
    But when I restart in February 2014, I want to make sure that I do not get into the same downward cycle again. Is there anyone here who does weightlifting and has (recovered from) chronic insomnia?
    If yes, how does weightlifting affect your sleep? Did you performance increase after the insomnia stopped?

    Also, I wonder, if someone has insomnia, is he/she more susceptible to 'overtraining', i.e., frying the central nerve system with (normal volume) exercise?

    To me this is an important topic, even though I quit training last week, I'm really looking forward to start lifting again.

  • Sleepio Member

    • 7 comments
    • 3 helped
    Session 4

    For most of my life I have been physically active and a good sleeper. I'm neither at the moment but would like to return to my former condition(s). I've been reading some works by Phil Maffetone and he directly relates, at least in part, insomnia to poor aerobic conditioning.

    Being fatigued from poor sleep it feels difficult (and sometimes impossible) to begin aerobic training again (running) and be able to recover. On the other hand, perhaps that exercise is itself what is needed for better sleep. Seems like a catch-22: too tired to exercise, too little exercise to sleep well.

    Anybody have any experience or advice. Is it a good idea to begin seriously working on aerobic training again? I am a very active walker already (usually on the order of 15,000 – 20,000) steps a day but I feel like I need to turn the intensity up to improve. Any experience with aerobic training to improve sleep?

  • Sleepio Member

    • 258 comments
    • 62 helped
    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Yes, I can comment on the importance of exercise and sleep. No matter that we are tired, we have to get out and do something, anything. I think aerobic exercise is the best, but maybe strength also helps. In my case, running is probably not going to be possible owing to joint pain. I do miss it so. It has all sort of benefits for me. That's one of the best. But if that's not an option, then cycling in a gym (or outdoors if that's your thing) or perhaps running on an elliptical trainer where we can increase our heart rates, is a substitute but doesn't seem to do the same things that a half hour run outdoors will do. So, to compensate, I have increased my time doing aerobic activity at the gym to 50 minutes a day, and it still doesn't do what running did/does. But I do know that regular exercise no matter what we do is important. If I am too tired to go to the gym, I just force myself to go there and then sit quietly with my eyes closed until I feel I can do it. If my mind is working on me, I try to let those thoughts go by. I hope some of this helps you.

    Again, it doesn't matter what we choose. It's just that we do something and do it regularly. Just like healthy eating and sleeping. This is said for me as much as it is for you.

  • Sleepio Member

    • 1 comments
    • 1 helped
    Graduate

    I absolutely love cycling and since my insomnia started about 3 months ago I have hardly been out on my bike. This in itself increases the stress levels and I get anxious that I may not be able to get back to the distances / intensity I was training at. I have now decided that I will resume training asap concentrating on going early in the day to allow the body to recover during the course of the day. I'll keep you posted..

  • Sleepio Member

    • 25 comments
    • 11 helped
    Graduate

    Just started sleepio after many years of sleep probs – I have found in recent years that too much exercise makes insomnia worse – especially swimming. I get off to sleep quickly but then wake up and can't keep still or relax, like my arms want to keep moving like when they were in the pool. I went to a gym once and the same thing happened. Exercising early morning doesn't help much. Anyone had similar?

  • Sleepio Member

    • 25 comments
    • 8 helped
    Graduate

    I do think exercising out in the fresh air makes you tireder, sleepwise, but I've no idea why that would be.

  • Sleepio Member

    • 258 comments
    • 62 helped
    Graduate

    Interesting how few comments we see here since this is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Anne is on the right track. The mind plays a role in exercise just as it does in sleep.

  • Sleepio Member

    • 92 comments
    • 17 helped
    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    I agree with you, exercising outdoors does seem to be more tiring. I read somewhere about how exercising in a “green” environment improves mental state better than exercising in a gym.

  • Sleepio Member

    • 1692 comments
    • 339 helped
    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Hi creakingbrain,
    I realize your question about exercise is from some time ago. I think it all comes down to experimenting with different types of exercise and time of day. I exercise 3 times a week at the gym (late morning or mid-late afternoon) and try to walk most days. I haven't noticed any correlation with my sleep but I also haven't been tagging it in my diary. I'll start to do that. Maybe it is making a difference and I just wasn't aware of it.
    anniem

  • Sleepio Member

    • 1 comments
    • 0 helped
    Session 2

    Hi, I am an elderly cyclist and occasionally take a club ride of say 60 miles and dependant on who leads the ride it can be tough and I find it very difficult to sleep on that particular night and the next day I feel mentally exhausted. I have tried recovery drinks but I am not sure they help

  • Sleepio Member

    • 213 comments
    • 73 helped
    Graduate

    I did a body pump course about 4 days a week for 7+ years before the insomnia got bad and out of control (stopped it about 3 years ago). I wasn't doing any competitive lifting – just cardio/weights in a group but it really made me feel good about my body. However, as my sleep worsened, I found it hard to imagine lifting anything when so tired (plus, at the end I did a number on my back as well). For years, exercising later in the day seemed to not affect my sleep in a negative manner. I also am wondering when (out on fmla due to insomnia from hell and the wondrous doctors adding pill after pill to the mix -which made things so much more fun with the side effects that came w/them) I go back to work, how to incorporate exercise earlier into a work routine of 8:30-5:30 (which tack on another hr each way for traffic in this town). I have tried on and off to do yoga and enjoyed the class but it was a mad rush to get home, let the dog out, gobble leftovers, make a 7:00 class that got out at 8:30 and then back home at 9. The yoga did seem to help (certain teachers) but the constant rush of it all working full time makes me wonder how to do this.
    Anyway, right now I just want to function again w/out being a zombified mess. Still, I do miss feeling fit and going to the gym – though right now, that is at the least of my worries (need to get sleep back on track and then hope to maintain that and a stressful job – but one thing at a time I suppose).

  • Sleepio Member

    • 3 comments
    • 0 helped
    Graduate

    I just started this course today. I have had a difficult sleeping as long as I can remember (my mother references it even as a baby and as a child). However, when I started college it got especially worse, and even worse when the stresses of life piled on more with family illnesses, work, etc. Now, as a graduate student, i have been on sleeping pills of many kinds for several years (mainly ambien). I find that their results have been inconsistent.

    As far as exercise goes, I haven't noticed that I can fall asleep more easily, but working out in the morning (mostly running and yoga) makes me more physically tired by night time. However, actually getting myself up and in the mindset in the morning is the hardest part when that is usually the time I sleep best. I am not giving up working out while I train for this program because working out helps a ton with the depression that accompanies poor sleep. I always do it in the evening out of habit because my sleep doctor told me that it was better to do something to ease my mind rather than hate my life and pursue negative thoughts while laying in bed. I'm guessing that probably wasn't the best advice, but I can work out for hours at night. While it doesn't make me tired, it eases my mind. SO I began to love working out at the gym late when nobody was there… So this is a huge struggle for me.

    I also trained for a half marathon earlier this year. I didn't feel that I slept any better, but my overall happiness with myself and life in general was much better. I made myself do it even when I was tired because I had an end goal. I had no choice (in my mind) except to succeed. To try my best.

    I started grad school this May and have tried going on and off of sleeping pills and it made everything extremely difficult. I fell off of my fitness wagon and ate terribly and got very depressed and had a huge increase in anxiety. These are all normal feelings when starting a difficult new chapter in life, but just working out the last two weeks has made a huge difference in my overall well-being and happiness. I now decided I will be doing another half marathon in Feb. to help motivate myself. I hope to use this program to help figure out when the best time to fit in training would be and if there are times when you should give yourself a break. I fear the downward spiral of stopping, so I try my best to keep going. Anyone else relate to the struggling? Anyone else have any tips? What works for you?

  • Sleepio Member

    • 1692 comments
    • 339 helped
    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Hi brenna_a_p,

    Welcome to Sleepio and thanks for sharing your story with us. You have a lot going on and I am pretty hopeful you will see results with this program.

    When to exercise and being consistent with it are struggles for many and yet you seem to be well on your way with training for your next marathon (good luck!). You say you have gotten into a habit of exercising at night rather than thinking negative thoughts and that when you set a goal, that really helps. So, how about setting yourself a goal to exercise in the morning (you say that helps you to feel more tired at night) and instead of exercising at night, use the thought checker for those negative thoughts and try progressive relaxation to help get your body and mind into sleep mode? Both of those will be covered in week 2. In the meantime, there is a great free sleep meditation download on gersomeheadspace.com I remember using that many times in the beginning of this program and found it really helped me.

    I hope this information is helpful. Please don't hesitate to post again on any of the threads if you have more questions or concerns.

    Take care,
    anniem

  • Sleepio Member

    • 213 comments
    • 73 helped
    in reply to Sleepio Member
    Graduate

    Hi Brenna, Since I wrote the previous post (back in November), I have gotten back into the gym. For the past two months or so I have been doing a Goldsfit class (don't know if you have Golds gym where you live but it is their version of the Crossfit classes). I was unable to do this when I was getting hardly any sleep but since my sleep has improved (still working on getting where I want to be though) I am able to do this again. I have noticed a huge difference in my mood because of this. I have been working out at 7pm on weekdays because of my work schedule and an hour long commute (8:30-5:30 + commute each way). I agree that working out in the morning is best but I simply am not at a point to wake up that early (not to mention, working out that early). I know there are times that the 7-8 class affects my wind down but I think their are time it helps as well. This class in particular, since it is different every single class and due to the semi-competitive nature of it – tends to keep me in the moment for the bulk of class, and that in itself, is magical for me. It has helped my body image, attitude, and energy levels. Perhaps you could just try to do it not so late, if early mornings are too much like complete torture at the moment (which is my case). Although, I do agree w/Anniem that mornings are better and if you can change your habits w/that, is probably the best route. There is a morning class at 6:30 that I could go to but the thought of working out that early still overwhelms me and then all the extra pressure on waking up even earlier sets in. I keep telling myself one of these days I'd try it. That it is simply a matter of changing your habits. If you can get a rhythm going w/it let me know as I should do the same w/the am classes. Best of luck!

  • Sleepio Member

    • 6 comments
    • 0 helped
    Graduate

    My advice is firstly don't do it in the evening as it charges you up. Seconly maybe adjust your schedule as you might be overdoing it. I find short workouts and plenty of rest is best. Thirdly maybe supplement with magnesium? Supposed to help with sleep and muscle building. And finally balance your hardcore exercise program with a softy one, eg. do something to unwind your body and mind so that you're not in fight/flight mode all the time.

Return to top