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The Effects of Exercise on Sleep

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about sleep and mental health-related topics as well as ways to prevent stress and to relax.

We’ve all been there: The restless nights where it’s impossible to drift off into slumber where we instead struggle with frustration as time passes slowly. Even more difficult are the issues of those not inclined to utilize chemicals for assistance because of their detrimental side effects. There are very few things that can be done naturally to assist with a restful sleep for those of us that desire organic approaches in our life. Yet there is good news. Research has shown that the powerful restorative abilities of exercise can have a tremendous impact on your sleeping patterns. Exercise improves sleep, yes, but it can also provide a long-term equilibrium for many individuals with sleeping difficulties.

Timing your exercise regime well for better sleep

A very important note if you are beginning an exercise regimen for the sake of retaining a better sleep schedule is the time factor. Even though exercise has a major impact on a restful sleep, it is not suggested to do it within 2-4 hours of bed time. Sleep after exercise is difficult because the body’s endorphin levels and heart rate has been raised. Also, the increase in physical activity, even after exercise, requires time before the body fully relaxes back into its natural sedentary rhythm. Because of this, it is best to exercise in the morning or afternoon.

Consider the following statement:

“A nationally representative sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.”-National Sleep Foundation

How much exercise is enough to improve sleep

In consideration of the above study, it’s proven that individuals should get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise daily in order to achieve the greatest effect of exercise on sleep. The type of training required is typically aerobic and raises the heart rate to a significant enough degree. This includes running, jogging, cycling, incline hiking, and swimming. Exercise improves sleep significantly if utilizing one of these techniques for the minimum length of time stated.

Another valuable benefit of the effects of exercise on sleep is the way you feel after resting. Dr. Kathryn Reid’s research states that better sleep gave people more pep, that magical ingredient that makes you want to get up and get out into the world to do things. In recognizing this, it is easy to see that exercise and sleep work in a symbiotic manner, creating both a better sleeping and waking environment for the practicing individual.

Final remarks on exercise and sleep

If you’ve ever found yourself asking the question “does exercise help you sleep?” you now have verifiable evidence to support a positive response to your question. Once you discover your favored exercise, commit it to a routine, and make sure that it is completed at the right time of day, the effects of exercise on sleep will become readily apparent to you. For those of us afflicted with the struggle to sleep and the discipline to actually do something about it, this information regarding sleep and exercise could not have come at a better time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2016 Sam Shepards


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