Exercise is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Even small amounts of physical activity can improve your mood and cognitive function, alleviate anxiety, and decrease your risk of diseases and other medical conditions. Studies have also found that physical activity helps people sleep better. That said, how, how much, and when you exercise will affect your sleep in different ways.
Additionally, a good night’s sleep is important for those who exercise regularly. Sleep allows your body to recover from the previous day. Getting enough rest after a workout strengthens your muscles and tissues, which can help you avoid fatigue and exercise-related injuries. Conversely, poor sleep may lead to lower physical activity levels during the day.
The best exercise to improve sleep largely depends on how old you are. For instance, some studies have found that moderate exercise training over the course of several weeks can improve sleep quality and duration for adolescents, whereas vigorous exercise during the same timespan has been shown to decrease sleep duration for some teens.
Regular exercise can help healthy adults sleep better. While acute physical activity can have a small effect on sleep quality and duration, regular, moderate exercise can extend sleep duration, improve sleep quality, and decrease sleep onset, or the time it takes to fall asleep.
For adults with sleep disorders, exercise needs may be a bit different. One study found that moderate resistance training and stretching exercises are beneficial to people with insomnia. Similarly, subjects who participated in moderate aerobic sessions reported decreased sleep onset, fewer waking episodes during the night, longer sleep duration, more sleep efficiency, and less overall anxiety.
In addition to helping you sleep better, regular exercise also provides the following benefits:
The timing of your workout is crucial to sleep. Aerobic workouts in the early morning have been shown to improve sleep quality to a greater extent than the same workouts in the afternoon or evening. Exercising in the morning has also been linked to more time spent in slow-wave sleep. A daytime walk lasting 10 minutes or longer can also improve your sleep that night.
A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid strenuous exercise within three hours of your scheduled bedtime. Working out late in the day can raise your body temperature, which in turn may impact sleep onset and how well you sleep. Some studies have even concluded that high-intensity workouts within an hour of bedtime can negatively affect sleep time and sleep efficiency.
Yoga and other stretching exercises may be more suitable evening exercises, as they promote feelings of relaxation and can improve sleep quality. Alternatively, you can alleviate physical tension before bed using progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.
To learn more about physical activity and sleep, please visit the guides listed below.