Exercise and Sleep: How and Why Fitness Helps you Sleep Better
Learn how sleep and exercise are connected, why exercise can improve your sleep hygiene, and the best time to exercise before you sleep.
April 13, 2021
4 MIN

Exercise helps you sleep. You already know that activity during your day positively impacts lots of parts of your life, like mental health and injury prevention.

But sleep hygiene, an aspect of your health that’s often overlooked, can also be enhanced with regular exercise.

While it’s simple to understand the fact that exercise helps you sleep, the specific ways exercise and sleep are connected are a little less obvious.

In this article you’ll learn how regular exercise can positively impact your sleep, how to maximize its effect, and why exercise can lead to a better night’s sleep.


How exercise can help you sleep better

Here’s some of the most common sleep benefits of exercise:

Exercise helps you fall asleep faster

Regular daily exercise helps you spend less time trying to fall asleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, regular daily exercise can “increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset.”

The less time you spend trying to fall asleep means more time actually sleeping, which improves your sleep hygiene and gives you more time to get rested, rejuvenated and fresh for the day.

Exercise helps you sleep deeper

There’s good types of sleep and then there’s great types of sleep...

Studies have shown that exercise leads to more slow wave sleep—a deeper sleep that has the most positive rejuvenating and restful effects on your body.

Slow wave sleep plays a significant role in cerebral recovery and restoration and is beneficial for feeling rested and fresh the next day.

Plus, the better your sleep is, the more energy you’ll have the next day. It’s the energy you’ll need to keep up your workout plan and stay motivated to move more.

Exercise more, sleep better, wake up refreshed, feel energized, repeat.

Exercise decreases daytime sleepiness

You’ve probably felt that afternoon wall of sleepiness hit you every now and then.

Napping is an option, but daytime sleep can actually negatively impact your regular sleep quality if you’re not careful. One of the best ways to beat that late day exhaustion is regular exercise.

Even though exercise eventually leads to tiredness that leads to a better sleep (more on this in a minute), you are actually more energized in the time immediately following exercise. Which means more productive days and better sleeps at night.

Exercise clears your mind

Exercise helps you take time away from your daily stress and reset your mental state. Think of your exercise as a tiny vacation you take everyday to reset and recoup.

Daily exercise helps you stimulate your brain to better deal with  “anxious thoughts, worry, and stress” that can significantly affect your quality of sleep.

A clearer mind sleeps better, and nothing is better to clear your mind during the day than the meditative qualities of regular exercise.

Exercise causes body temperature changes that help you sleep

When you’re going to sleep, your body temperature goes through a cooling down phase that’s part of a healthy path towards good sleep.

Exercise puts your body through a similar process of warming up and cooling down that can “signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.” So a well timed workout or exercise like a light jog or walk can aid in your transition between waking and sleep.

Remember, exercise can also energize you leading to difficulty getting to sleep, so experiment with when you’re exercising and what type of exercise you’re doing before you sleep.

Exercise makes you tired

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s also the most important. Exercise makes you tired. As you expel energy and fuel to exercise, your need to rest and recover increases.

It doesn’t even have to be before bed either. Regular exercise and movement breaks throughout your day all add up to deeper and more beneficial sleeping habits.

Simply put, exercise makes you the good kind of tired that helps you sleep better and wake up with more energy.

When is the best time to exercise before sleep?

Moderate to high intensity exercise within 2 hours of sleep can negatively impact your sleep. If you’re working out in the evening try to keep it a safe amount of time before you go to bed or opt for a lower impact routine like walking.

Using exercise to improve sleep varies a lot from person to person. The best way to determine when exercising will help your sleep the most is to experiment with the time of day and what types of exercise you’re doing.

Keep a sleep journal to monitor the effects of your exercise on sleep and improve your overall sleep hygiene. Try to keep track of what you did the day before and how your overall quality of sleep was impacted. If something’s working… do it more!


How much exercise do you need for a better sleep?

The key to knowing how much exercise you need for a better sleep starts with experimenting.

Try to keep your daily workouts and activity consistent. Let your body and mind adapt to your regimen while you stay in tune to how it’s affecting your sleep.

How much and how long you exercise can affect your sleeping patterns, but overall, any amount of exercise during the day “can support your internal clock and help make it easier to fall asleep at night.

Try a few different approaches and decide which one works for you. If you’re able to, several movement breaks throughout your day, 30 minutes of medium intensity exercise, and a walk in the evening is a nice place to start.


Exercise for shut eye

Exercise improves your sleep. But learning how it works best for you is all about experimenting and keeping your workout routine consistent.

Try starting your exercise early in the day with some morning stretches, or try doing your steps in the evening after work.

No matter what you choose, exercise is a simple, effective and natural way to improve your sleep.

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