Exercise: A Super Sleep AidLast updated: May 01, 2017
If you’re like most adults, you need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to feel well rested, energetic, and alert.1 As many as a quarter of Americans,2 however, get far fewer hours of sleep. Hormonal changes, health conditions, stress, anxiety and depression, caffeine and other stimulants, certain medications, and jet lag may cause insomnia and other sleep disorders.1
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone!
Research Shows Exercise Improves Sleep
A study of more than 2,600 men and women ages 18 to 85 found participants who got 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week experienced significantly improved sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness compared with participants who engaged in less physical activity.3 In addition, study participants who exercised regularly also had significantly fewer leg cramps while sleeping and less difficulty concentrating when they became tired.3
Getting 150 minutes or more of sleep each week
can help you sleep better and feel more alert during the day.3
Talk with your Summit Medical Group sleep expert
about how exercise alone or exercise in combination with other therapies may help you recapture and maintain healthy sleep habits.
Although a combination of approaches often works best to improve sleep habits, research shows that regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise is effective in helping ensure a good night’s sleep.3
Exercises and activities that can help improve your sleep include:
- Brisk walking
- Cycling and Spinning
- Dancing and dance-based fitness classes
- Jogging and running
- Rowing, canoeing, and kayaking
The bottom line is that the more active you are each day, the more likely you are to fall asleep without difficulty and rest well throughout the night.
If you can’t put a gym visit into each day, try these tips to keep moving and rest well when you sleep:
- Walk the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator
- Take a brisk 30-minute walk on your lunch hour
- Walk the mall if it’s raining
- Work out with an exercise video at home when your kids are napping or at school
- Clean your house instead of sitting in front of the TV
- Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair when working at your desk to strengthen muscles in your abdomen and trunk
Some studies show that bursts of activity can be as valuable to your health as long-term endurance workouts.4
As little as 30 minutes of exercise per day 5 days per week
can mean the difference between tossing and turning
when you could be enjoying a restful sleep.
Why Exercise Improves Sleep
Some researchers believe that as body temperature cools down in the afternoon or early evening after exercise, exercisers tend to be calmer, drowsy, and ready for sleep. For this reason, some researchers recommend that people who have difficulty falling and staying asleep exercise in the afternoon or early evening.5
Studies also show that regular exercise can reduce anxiety, arousal, and symptoms of depression that can cause some people to stay awake or wake after sleeping only a short time.6
- National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. How much sleep is enough? nhlbi.nih.gov/health/healthtopics/topics/sdd/howmuch. Accessed April 14, 2017.
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. cdc.gov/sleep/index.html. Accessed April 14, 2017.
- Hart PD, Benavidez G, Erickson J. Meeting recommended levels of physical activity in relation to preventive health behavior and health status among adults. J Prev Med Public Health. 2017; 50:10-17.
- Gillen JA, Martin BJ, Macinnis MJ, et al. Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. 2016; PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154075. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154075.
- National Sleep Foundation. Home Ask the Expert. How does exercise help those with chronic insomnia? sleepfoundation.org. Accessed April 14, 2017.
- Rebar AL, Stanton R, Geard D, Short C, Duncan MJ, Vandelanotte C. A meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychol Rev. 2015;9(3):366-378.