Does Exercise Really Help You Sleep?

Does Exercise Really Help You Sleep?

Posted in Sleep Better
read time
4 mins

With so many of us now working in sedentary jobs (myself included!), getting enough exercise to stay healthy can be difficult. We all know that it's important to exercise regularly to improve overall health and wellbeing, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and prevent illness. However, can exercise really improve sleep? Read on to discover how exercise can make a difference to your sleep.

 

What exercise is best for sleep?

 

So you know you want to get a better night's sleep, but what exercise will help you do that? Should you be hitting the weights, doing a bit of cardio, or some relaxing yoga?

Start with whatever you are comfortable with. Any exercise is better than nothing! Find an activity you enjoy - this will help you stick to it.

For some inspiration, check out the list below:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Swimming

These are known as aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercise helps to improve your overall fitness, wellbeing - as well as your sleep!

During the warm summer months, I love to take an evening stroll before dinner. A gentle form of low-impact activity, I find that walking can help to tire me out. I find it difficult to head out for a walk in the winter so the gym is usually my go-to spot during those colder months.

Whatever your preferred activity - try mixing things up a little for variety.

 

Young couple walking in a field, holding hands
Photo by I'm Priscilla

 

How long should I exercise for?

 

To stay healthy, the NHS recommends 30 minutes of physical activity, five times a week. Since I wanted to improve my sleep, I experimented with the duration of my exercise - to see if I could discover the perfect amount I need.

I began by exercising at least 10 minutes a day, every day, to see how it affected my sleep. Before long, this grew to between 30 minutes and an hour.

I found that the quality of my sleep improved if I exercised. However, it didn't matter how long I exercised for - simply doing some exercise each day improved my sleep.

Everyone is different. Start small and build it up slowly to discover how the length of exercise can make a difference to your sleep.

Hand holding a stopwatch
Photo by Veri Ivanova

 

When should I exercise?

 

Exercising at the right time of day is important. Exercising too close to bedtime can actually result in disturbed sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you finish exercising at least three hours before you go to sleep. This timing is important since body temperature is closely related to sleep: a slightly cooler body temperature can actually help you fall asleep. For this reason, it's important to give your body time to cool off after exercise.

With this in mind, I tried exercising at different times of the evening to see whether it affected my sleep. I found that it made no difference, unless I didn't give myself at least an hour before bed to cool down afterwards.

Again, everyone is different. If you are going to exercise in the evening, make sure that you test out a few different times before you find the one that suits you.

 

Why should I exercise?

 

It isn’t all about tiring yourself out for the night. Regular activity provides many other health benefits that can improve your sleep quality.

Research shows that exercise can help to reduce the risk of:

  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Snoring (your partner will thank you for it!)

 

So does exercise really improve sleep?

 

Yes, it does! I've found that exercising not only improves my sleep, it also gives me more motivation the following day. I wake up feeling better and happier about myself, which I then put into my efforts throughout the rest of the day.

I combine daily exercise with the ultimate wake up routine. Why not try it for yourself, and see if you can enjoy a better night's sleep!