The Benefits of Exercise For Sleep – Does It Help With Insomnia?

It’s not just for toned tummies and fitting into skinny jeans…

Regular exercise can improve sleep!

The first questions that come to mind are:

  • How much exercise do I need to get the benefits?
  • What type should I do?
  • Does it work for everyone?

If you’re exercising to help with falling and staying asleep, you’ll want to plan for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. That equals 30 minutes a day, five days per week.

Anything that gets your heart pumping will do, whether it’s a jog, lifting weights or a session of power walking.  And yes, it works for the majority of people. According to the Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of the subjects in a study of 2,600 people experienced deeper and better rest.

Benefits of Exercise to Your Sleep

Improves Sleep Quality

The National Institute of Health reports that regular exercise helps your body to spend more time in deep slumber. Of the five sleep stages, this is one responsible for tissue repair and restoration. It’s also difficult to wake someone up in this phase, so the longer spent here, the better.

Increases Sleep Duration

In addition to getting a more restful night of shuteye, people who regularly work out report spending more time asleep. Part of this is due to the amount of energy you expend when you engage in physical activity. While it gives you an initial boost, it also wears you out as the day goes on, which prepares you for bed.

This finding is also related to sleep quality. It’s a logical conclusion that if you’re spending more time in a deeper sleeping phase, you’ll spend more time asleep overall, especially because the deep phases are difficult to be woken up from by noises like a snoring partner.

Relieves Anxiety

If you’re worried about something, go for a run, lift weights, or attend a yoga class. You’ll most likely find that the physical activity takes your mind off of things, allowing you to be present and in the moment. If you don’t have time for a full-fledged workout, a mere five minutes can help relieve anxiety. A quick stroll around the block could do wonders for your mindset.

woman is exercising yoga

Reduces Stress

Physical activity releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel happy, energized, and can even relieve pain. So, if you suffer from stress, depression or a physical injury, you could greatly benefit from an endorphin boost.

Helps with Sleep Disorders

The exact cause of why physical activity helps with this type of disorder isn’t exactly known, but people with insomnia often report being able to rest better when they incorporate exercise into their lives.

There’s also evidence suggesting that regular exercise can reduce symptoms associated with sleep apnea. This could be due to weight loss or better breathing techniques and lung capacity that come from aerobic activity.

Avoid Exercise Right Before Bedtime

Makes You Energized and Stimulated

Even though exercising can help you fall asleep faster, it’s important to note that it can also interfere with your sleeping habits if you do it too close to bedtime. The immediate energy boost and endorphin rush might delay the time it takes for you to feel sleepy at night. It’s recommended to exercise at least four hours before bedtime to prevent this interference.

Elevated Body Temperature

At night, our core body temperature drops to prepare us for bed. However, when we exercise, our body temperature rises, which sends mixed messages and makes falling asleep more challenging.

Reverses the Downward Shift in Body Temp

Since exercise increases the body’s temperature, it affects your ability to fall asleep at night, when your body temperature begins to drop. It takes about four hours after strenuous activity to revert to a normal temperature, which is why we recommend wrapping up a workout at least four hours before bed.

man is exercising at the gym

Light Physical Activities Before Bed

Stretching

If you want to do a physical activity before bed, opt for something that won’t raise your body temperature. Bonus points for doing something relaxing. Stretching is an excellent way to end your day. Not only do you get to move around a bit, but it can also help prevent uncomfortable conditions like restless leg syndrome.

Yoga

Yoga is an incredibly relaxing activity that focuses on stretching, focus, and breathing. It’s similar to meditation, but with a more physical component. Avoid strenuous yoga poses and flows and opt for a nightly practice that focuses on breath and natural, fluid movements.

Strolling

A relaxing walk around the block with loved ones and pets can be the perfect way to end the day. Instead of falling asleep watching television, you can enjoy a breath of crisp night air before heading off to bed.

two girls are walking a dog

Frequently Asked Questions

Can exercise help insomnia sufferers?

Yes. You’ve already learned that working out helps people fall asleep faster, sleep longer and enjoy better quality rest. It helps regulate body temperature as long as it’s done at the right time of day. It also eases depression and anxiety, two major contributing factors to insomnia.

Can exercise help cure sleep deprivation?

While it might not work immediately, exercising can help cure sleep deprivation. Subjects studied reported being able to rest better within as little as four weeks.

Does it help promote deep sleep?

Yes, people who get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week report that they wake up feeling better rested and didn’t wake up as frequently during the night. This is an indicator that the subject spent more of their nocturnal time in a state of deep slumber.

How many hours before bed should you exercise?

Because of exercise’s immediate effects on energy levels and body temperature, it’s recommended to finish your workout at least four hours before bedtime. So, if you typically go to bed at 10 o’clock in the evening, your workout should have concluded by six o’clock at the latest.

Conclusion


We think it’s preferable to find a natural solution to an ailment whenever possible. Exercising is cheaper than prescription medication, and it comes with fewer side effects.

In fact, the most commonly reported side effects, other than better sleep, are weight loss, energy, and a better mood. Can an Ambien do any of that? Didn’t think so.

Sources and References:

  1. How Exercise Affects Sleep – sleep.org
  2. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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Author: Mark Reddick

When I’m not learning about sleep, you can find me hanging out with my wife and close friends.

I absolutely love entrepreneurship and learning how to improve yourself daily. We only get one life, and I want to make it the best one possible.

I hope that everyone that finds our site takes a new approach to sleep. The world needs to stop thinking about it as something “we just do,” but rather something that allows us “to do every day.”

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The Sleep Advisor