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How to sleep well after evening training. Expert advice

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How to sleep well after evening training.  Expert advice

Physical activity, carried out close to bedtime, can have negative effects on sleep. Dr. Gibin’s tips for sleeping well

Night rest is essential to allow the body to recover the energy spent and be ready to face all the expected commitments, including physical activity. Sometimes, however, the practice of sports in the evening hours worsens the quality. Since many people cannot train until after finishing work, let’s try to understand how to behave so that physical activity does not have negative effects on sleep.

During the night, sleep allows the body to use energy to repair and regenerate. During night rest, as for example during digestion, it is above all the parasympathetic system that works. “The autonomic nervous system is composed of the parasympathetic and orthosympathetic systems. The latter is activated when the body has to make an effort, such as when undertaking a workout: the body is in a state of alert and the energies it has available are burned to support the physical and mental commitment required. The parasympathetic system carries out a diametrically opposite action and is set in motion when the organism needs to store energy, for example after eating and before sleeping” explains Dr. Marco Gibin, physiotherapist at the Irccs Galeazzi Hospital – Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. Practicing sport promotes the activation of the orthosympathetic system because it stimulates the production of hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. Immediately after training, endorphins enter the circulation, hormones which on the contrary relax and favor the activation of the parasympathetic system.

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If you relax after playing sports in the evening, falling asleep is easier. However, if you are unable to release all your energy through physical activity or if you are very competitive, it becomes more complex to stimulate the parasympathetic system to the detriment of the orthosympathetic system and sleep is also affected. “Some scientific studies have shown that those who practice sport regularly encounter fewer difficulties in the transition between ‘switching off’ the orthosympathetic system and ‘switching on’ the parasympathetic system compared to those who do it occasionally” underlines Dr. Gibin. Consequently, those who train consistently have fewer problems falling asleep even when they do physical activity in the evening. While it is not possible to provide guidelines that are valid for everyone, generally even those who exercise regularly should wait half an hour to an hour before going to bed. Both before and after physical activity it is also important to avoid overdoing it with food. Before training, the consumption of easily digestible foods allows you to have more energy available without having to allocate a lot of it to digestion, while after training, a light dinner favors the activation of the parasympathetic system.

To encourage the activation of the parasympathetic system after training and, consequently, falling asleep, those who are poorly trained and those approaching a new discipline should first of all modulate their physical efforts, avoiding giving their all from the first sessions. This gives the body the opportunity to get used to the new routine. Since it is essential that physical activity does not take time away from rest, the most intense workouts should be carried out at the weekend, when you can often stay in bed longer the next day. If you realize that after playing sports in the evening you fall asleep with difficulty, it is helpful to end the session with a cool-down phase, focused on stretching exercises. “To encourage the activation of the parasympathetic system and, therefore, a better night’s rest, it is also useful to carry out a short meditation or mindfulness practice at the end of training” concludes Dr. Gibin.

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