Exercise can enhance sleep and lower stress, especially for breast cancer survivors


Stress may have an impact on practically every part of your life, even how well you sleep at night, when it’s there. While it’s common to experience stress from time to time, if it consistently interferes with your sleep over time, it can cause poorer quality sleep or even insomnia.

This could then result in other health issues like depression, cancer relapse, and early death.

But according to a recent research, exercise may be essential for enhancing both sleep quality and stress levels.

We combed through every study that has ever been published on this subject in order to perform our review. The majority of the studies we reviewed—60%—were conducted on breast cancer-suffering women, while the other 40% had a more diverse group of participants, including men and women without the disease.

It’s unclear why so many research in this field focused on breast cancer patients, but it could have something to do with the fact that chemotherapy has a lot of negative side effects, including stress and restlessness.

Our results indicate that exercise was generally useful for lowering stress levels and enhancing sleep. The benefits of physical activity for reducing stress and improving sleep have been demonstrated in other research with a wider range of participants. Additionally, research suggests that individuals with other medical issues including depression or sleep disorders may benefit from exercise.

A vital hormone in the body is cortisol. It collaborates with our brain to control a number of vital bodily functions, such as mood, immune system operation, and metabolism. It is frequently referred to as our “stress hormone” since it also sets off our “fight-or-flight” reaction when we confront frightening or stressful situations.

Additionally, cortisol is crucial for sleep. Throughout the day, cortisol levels fluctuate, but they are often at their highest in the morning, roughly 30-45 minutes after waking up, making us feel alert and prepared to face the day. However, these levels progressively decrease throughout the day, which aids in our ability to feel weary and go to sleep at night.

However, during stressful periods, your cortisol levels may rise in the evening, which makes it more difficult to achieve a restful night’s sleep. In consequence, lack of sleep makes stress worse by altering the body’s cortisol production.

Our research found that exercise balances this downward cycle by controlling cortisol levels, which also enhances sleep quality. Running and yoga seem to be the most helpful exercises for reducing stress and promoting sleep, according to our research. However, our research also indicates that when exercise is customised to a person’s preferences, it is most effective at lowering stress and enhancing sleep.

the benefits of exercising

There are a few potential explanations for why exercise is so effective at lowering stress and enhancing sleep, according to earlier study.

First, physical activity might be considered a “hormetic” stressor. That healthy form of stress that keeps your body attentive is called hormesis. Your body is subjected to a variety of stresses during exercising, including the stress that comes from the added strain on your muscles. These stressors mimic the physiological processes your body employs to handle higher levels of stress.

Poor health might result from either too little or too much exposure to exercise stresses. That sweet region controls cortisol and enhances sleep (and overall health). But everyone has a different sweet spot, and your own emotional state when exercising may even have an impact.

Second, it’s crucial to think about the kind of exercise you perform, as this can influence whether it helps you feel more relaxed or stressed out. This is why it’s so important that you like your exercise. Depending on the time of day, you might also want to alter the intensity of your workout routine.

Exercise releases cortisol, so engaging in it (especially more strenuous forms like weightlifting or high-intensity interval training) might make you feel more exhausted at night and more energised during the day. For the same reason, if you enjoy working out in the evening, it’s preferable to pick activities like yoga or tai chi that promote relaxation and don’t significantly raise cortisol levels.

Of course, not everyone is able to work out in the morning. The good news is that practically any sort of exercise, at almost any time of day, can help you sleep better and reduce your stress levels.