Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping and exercise isn’t part of your daily routine, it may be time to get moving!
Sleep: another reason to exercise
You might be tired of all the advice about exercise as a way to lose weight or improve cardiovascular health. Or, you might just be tired, period! If that’s the case, you’ve just identified one more terrific reason for starting—or sticking with—a regular exercise routine.
Working out, sleeping better
Studies have shown that regular, moderate aerobic exercise can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Exercise has also been shown to boost your time in deep, or slow-wave, sleep. Exercise is widely regarded by sleep experts as a critical component of long-term sleep health. Increasingly, exercise is regarded as a potentially effective treatment for sleep disorders including insomnia. Exercise, especially that which leads to weight loss, can also contribute to improvements with sleep apnea.
The benefits of exercise to sleep
The role of body temperature
Body temperature and the brain’s sleep-wake cycle appear to be closely linked. The increase in body temperature during late-afternoon exercise, followed by the drop in body temperature that accompanies sleep onset, maybe one reason why sleep occurs more easily alongside regular physical activity.
Exercise also eases muscular tension, reduces stress, and increases the body’s production of endorphins, which in turn create a sense of well-being. This overall sense of ease that exercise engenders may help you sleep better.
Time it right
The timing of exercise is important. Late afternoon exercise can be beneficial to sleep, but working out too hard, too close to bedtime may disrupt sleep. If you can, try to avoid the three hours before bedtime. The benefits of exercise may ultimately outweigh the potential loss of some sleep. But to make the most of your active days and your restful nights, pay close attention to your personal sleep habits and how physical activity late in the day affects your sleep.
How much is enough?
Moderate exercise typically means at least 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking, cycling or similar vigorous movement. Fortunately, the body interprets lots of spirited activity as exercise, whether you’re jogging, vacuuming the stairs, raking leaves, or walking your dog.
Go easy near bedtime
Vigorous exercise near bedtime may interfere with sleep, but light physical activity in the evening can be very helpful in getting the body ready for sleep. Gentle stretching and yoga, in particular, tend to be relaxing, helping to reduce stress and tension.
Get help to get started
If you’re new to an exercise routine, remember to consult your doctor for advice on the best way to start. If you’re already in the habit of exercising regularly, keep it up! The bottom line? Any exercise is good for your body and mind, your health, and your sleep.