If you're someone who has a hard time falling or staying asleep, chances are, you've tried a lot of different methods to help you get to bed and stay there. Whether it's meditation, reading, or simply climbing into bed at an earlier time in the hope of (finally) catching some restful shut-eye, maybe you've been neglecting one, slightly more simple strategy: exercise. The thing is, the workouts that help you sleep are the ones that will either totally tucker you out, or help relax you, and it all depends on what time of the day you do them.
But first things first, if you find yourself trying to decide between a workout and getting more rest when you're feeling totally zonked, Lauren Schramm, a private trainer based in New York City, tells Elite Daily that sleep is always king. "Sleep is always more important for the body than getting in a workout," Scrhramm says. "So if your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. for your SoulCycle class, and you feel like you could hit snooze until 12 p.m., skip it and get some rest!"
While Schramm notes that wanting to sleep in shouldn't be an excuse to not exercise at all, it's still important to know that, if you accumulate or maintain what's called "sleep debt" (a fancier way of saying you're not getting enough rest), it can really put a damper on your body's ability to create and repair muscle tissue, which is crucial for a healthy workout routine.
Having said that, Schramm tells Elite Daily that a high-intensity workout during the day is great for expending energy, and it'll get you nice and tired for when it's finally time to snooze.
What's more, Schramm says, if you're the kind of person who's up and ready to go in the morning, try to take advantage of that a.m. energy and squeeze in your workout first thing. "Exposing yourself to the sunlight will help you later in the day when you're trying to get to sleep," she tells Elite Daily. To that point, Schramm adds, your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for your sleep-wake cycles, is affected by light, so exposing your body to light earlier in the day, and avoiding unnatural light after the sun goes down, can help improve your body's natural sleeping rhythm.
The trainer suggests finding a park bench during a morning run or jog, and trying three rounds of this timed workout she designed: First, for 30 seconds on each leg, step up onto the bench. Next, for 45 seconds, do a push-up off the bench, then bring your knee to your opposite elbow when you come back up, alternating knees between each push-up. Then, for 30 seconds, do some squat jumps. Lastly, get on the grass, and for 30 seconds, do some forearm plank-jacks. To do this exercise, get into a plank position, then jump your legs out into an A shape, and then back in. Schramm recommends completing these workouts back to back, taking one-minute breaks in between rounds.
For another high-intensity workout that's especially great if you have access to a gym, Schramm says, try the Tabata method.
"This is 20 seconds of all-out work, and then 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds," the trainer tells Elite Daily. "The shortest version of this is only four minutes; it's a great option because you can do this with any cardio or strength-based exercises that you know."
In Schramm's version of the workout, the first move involves sprinting on the treadmill, followed by squats with a low hold, and last but not least is a workout called "toes to the bar." For this one, you'll need access to a pull-up bar, which you'll firmly grip and hang off of, and then you'll swing your legs with dynamic motion, bringing your toes up toward the bar as far as you can reach.
As for when to do these high-intensity workouts, Schramm tells Elite Daily they're best saved for the morning or early afternoon, as she says it's crucial to eat within an hour after you complete your workout, and it's best to stop all food consumption around three hours before bed. This way, you can be finished with the digestion process at the right point in your day, and your body has the time and energy to focus on getting to bed and winding down.
And if you are in the mood to do a little light movement right before bed to really ease your body into dreamland, Schramm recommends getting into child's pose, then lying on your back for a spinal twist on each side, followed by a reclined, restorative butterfly pose.
When you're all done with those lovely and relaxing stretches, straighten out your legs, Schramm says, and just rest. Keep your eyes closed, focus on slowing your breathing to even, four- to six-count inhales and exhales, and transfer your breath to deep inside your belly.
Notice the sensations in your body as your heart rate and thoughts start to slow down. Before you know it, you might just pass right out.