Skip to main content

Exercise and sleep are two of the most important things that you can do for your health. Their combined effects have a positive impact on your mood and overall well-being. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, while sleep has been shown to improve exercise performance. Both of these activities have major benefits for your whole body. Learn how to exercise for sleep, its impact and when to do it.

How Does Exercise Impact Sleep?

There are many benefits to exercising regularly. These benefits include a lower risk of cancer, diabetes, improved physical function, and a better quality of life. A recent study found that people who exercised regularly slept better and felt more energetic during the day than those who did not.

Exercise also raises your core body temperature. Elevation in core body temperature signals the body clock that it’s time to be awake. After about 30 to 90 minutes, the core body temperature starts to fall. The decline helps to facilitate sleepiness.

Be So Well - Exercise for Sleep Blog - woman and man doing kettle ball squats

Exercise as a Sleep Aid

A regular exercise routine can help to reduce your stress levels. Stress is a common cause of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and sleeping restlessly during the night. Exercise is a potent remedy for anxiety and other mood disorders—just 5 minutes of exercise can trigger anti-anxiety responses in the body.

The ideal amount of exercise can’t be determined by one magic number, but most experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise for sleep can help individuals sleep better, longer, and more efficiently.

Based on scientific research, there is no “one-size-fits-all” routine to help improve your sleep, but morning aerobic activity has been shown to help you fall asleep more quickly, improve your sleep quality, and decrease the time you’re awake at night. Some individuals opt to exercise for sleep while others may use melatonin, Cannabinol (CBN), herbs such as chamomile, and other natural products to help support their sleep cycle.

Be So Well - Exercise for Sleep Blog - woman on a tredmill

What Type of Exercise is Best for Sleep?

The best exercise for sleep depends on each person, so no one exercise works for everyone. Yoga and Pilates often feature as recommended exercises for sleep because they are calming and gentle.

Aerobic Exercise & Cardio

Sleeplessness is improved by aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and increases blood flow. Additionally, it can reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease. People with insomnia and other sleep disorders have shown that aerobic exercise can be particularly effective. Exercise of this type can improve total sleep time, ability to sleep through the night, and quality of sleep. Several studies suggest aerobic exercise can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster, leading some to suggest it as a treatment.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep, and self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Resistance Training

The results of studies have shown that muscle-strengthening exercises (MSE) can increase the quality of sleep. Resistance training is a form of exercise that makes your muscles work against a weight or force.

Examples of these exercises include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Resistance bands
  • Bodyweight workouts like pull-ups

Yoga

Yoga is a great way to boost a person’s physical and psychological wellness. It facilitates focus, deep breathing, and periodic holding of various poses. Studies demonstrate that yoga can help relieve stress, lower anxiety, and ease depression. 

Apart from improving sleep, it has been shown in numerous research studies to improve health in those suffering from symptoms of menopause or arthritis, and patients undergoing cancer.

Be So Well - Exercise for Sleep Blog - women in camel yoga pose

When is the Best Time to Exercise for Sleep?

Exercising in the Morning is Best for Sleep

Since everyone’s sleep schedule is different, there is no one right answer to this statement. However, many experts agree that the best time to exercise for sleep is in the morning or early afternoon.

Exercising lightly in the evening, such as stretching or yoga, can also help you unwind before bedtime without overexerting your body.

If you’re a fitness enthusiast taking on heavy heart-pounding workouts, a pre-bed workout may not be the best nighttime routine. 

The activation of stimulating hormones such as endorphins can increase brain activity and keep some people awake.

You need to consider your daily routine and sleep habits when selecting a time to exercise.

Rem Sleep Is Reduced When You Exercise During the Night

Evening exercise can also elevate the heart rate, and studies have shown that people who exercise at night may experience a decrease in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These changes have not been observed as consistently in people who exercise in the morning.

Light exercise close to bedtime may be beneficial to some people, but vigorous physical activity can affect sleep efficiency, reduce total sleep time, and make it harder to fall asleep.

Timing High-Intensity Workouts

Before bedtime, high-intensity exercise has been shown to increase heart rate and prolong sleep onset, making it harder to fall asleep. The participants who exercised intensely had a higher heart rate and took 14 more minutes to fall asleep compared to those who exercised moderately.

However, some studies have shown just the opposite: that intense exercise may help people sleep more deeply. When a group of physically active adults exercised 90 minutes before bed, those who felt they had worked out harder had more restorative deep sleep than those who felt they had worked out less. They also fell asleep faster, woke up less during the night, and spent less time awake in bed.

Be So Well - Exercise for Sleep Blog - African American woman looking at her fitness tracker

Get Fit and Sleep Better: Tips For a Healthy Sleep Hygiene Routine

Approximately one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep regularly. Keeping a healthy sleep hygiene routine requires regular exercise. It was originally considered that improving sleep hygiene could be a possible treatment for insomnia.

Some of the important factors of sleep hygiene are:

Sleep-Wake Cycle

  • The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most crucial circadian rhythms, but it can be disturbed by lifestyle factors and sleep disorders.
  • Exercise can help improve sleep by stimulating the body’s natural rhythm and helping to clear out toxins from the brain and body.
  • Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, including in the evening before bedtime.
  • Avoid exercising within two hours before bedtime since it may disrupt your sleeping patterns.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before exercise and during exercise to keep hydrated and maintain energy levels.

Sleep and Stress

Exercise relieves and combats stress and anxiety, while also improving sleep quality.

  • Due to the gyms being closed, falling asleep was difficult. Decreased activity lowered drive to sleep.
  • Stress added to the equation made it even more challenging to fall asleep.
  • Exercise before bed can help get you into a good sleep cycle. After dinner, exercising may encourage your body to release melatonin, which is beneficial for assisting in a night of restful sleep.
  • When you become more comfortable with your exercise routine, increase the intensity and duration slowly to avoid injuries or overtraining syndrome (OTS).
  • Drink plenty of water before bedtime for optimum hydration, and avoid caffeine and alcohol late at night to ensure a peaceful slumber.

Try a Fitness Tracker

Many fitness trackers include comprehensive sleep data, which is especially useful for recording workouts and staying motivated. Having this data at your fingertips can help you determine which routine fits your life the best. Using it can also help you optimize your workouts and health by providing insights into your sleep cycle.

Exercising can significantly improve sleep quality. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to promote better sleep. It is worth noting, however, that not all exercises are alike.

Interval training and high-intensity exercises can disrupt your sleep. Therefore, when choosing a form of exercise for sleep routine, ensure that the activity is known to improve sleep quality.