Exercise: A Natural Sleep AidLast updated: Apr 01, 2018
Want to fall asleep quickly and wake feeling energized? Make regular exercise an ongoing part of your life!
Talk with your Summit Medical Group doctor
before beginning a new or intensifying your current exercise routine.
She or he will ensure it is safe for you to exercise.
The good news is that regular exercise can help improve your sleep. But the key to a good night’s sleep from exercise is sustaining your exercise routine over the long term. That means getting 20-to-30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise (walking, running, cycling, swimming) and physical activity (gardening, house cleaning) 5 times to 6 times per week for the rest of your life.1,2,3
Although research suggests exercise can help some people sleep well, it also shows that short-term exercise does not always help people who routinely have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep (or chronic insomnia); however, studies show people with poor sleep habits who exercise regularly for 4 or more months and continue their exercise program can improve the quality and duration of their sleep.1,2
How Exercise May Improve Sleep
Researchers believe there are several reasons why exercise may help reduce the severity and frequency of insomnia. For example, the increase and drop in body temperature during and after exercise may help promote sleepiness, making it easier to fall asleep quickly. In addition, exercise can reduce anxiety and depression — conditions that cause some people to lie awake or sleep restlessly. Finally, exercise might help regulate the body’s internal clock that guides when to fall asleep and wake.3
How to Make a Long-term Commitment to Exercise
If you struggle with chronic insomnia and do not exercise, it’s worth trying a long-term exercise routine as a way of returning to healthy sleep patterns. Here’s how:
1. Start by talking with your doctor about problems you have with sleeping.
Let your doctor know you would like to exercise as a way to improve your sleep.
She or he will determine if it is safe for you to exercise and provide other recommendations to help you on your path toward a good night’s sleep.
2. Choose an exercise such as walking that you enjoy and are likely to continue.
3. Begin with a reasonable exercise plan and gradually increase the length
and intensity of your workout.
a. Walk 10 to 15 minutes on a flat surface each day for 5 or 6 days a week.
b. As you gradually increase the length of time you exercise and become fit, increase your pace and add inclines to your route for more intensity.
4. Exercise with a friend for sociability and motivation.
5. Be patient and stay with your exercise plan. Research suggests that a good night’s sleep has as much of an effect on a person’s motivation to exercise as exercise has
on getting a good night’s sleep. The more you improve one, the more likely you are to improve the other.
6. Keep a record of your workouts and sleep patterns to see if working out each day is improving your ability to get a good night’s sleep. If after 4 or more months you are still sleeping poorly, talk with your doctor and ask about getting an evaluation for your sleep problems.
7. Follow other tips for getting a good night’s sleep. After all, sleep, like most body functions, requires multiple healthy approaches for success.
In addition to exercising regularly, try these tips for improving the quality of your sleep:
- Avoid stimulants, including alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
- Avoid eating large and heavy meals before going to sleep
- Avoid overuse or improper use of prescription and nonprescription medications,
including sleeping pills, decongestants, and diet pills
- Exercise outdoors to increase your exposure to sunlight, which helps your brain
know when to be awake and asleep4
- Engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga and meditation to help you unwind, especially late in the day
- Adopt a regular sleep schedule that includes calming down, going to sleep, and waking at the same time each day
- Keep your room cool, quiet, and dark
In addition to improving the quality of your sleep, regular exercise has benefits that can improve the quality of your life. Many people, for example, find that exercise can help them maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding being overweight or obese can help reduce your risk of other problems such as back, hip, and leg pain, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea, which can make sleeping difficult.
The Summit Medical Group Sleep Disorders Center
provides evaluation and treatment for all types of sleep disorders
in a tranquil, home-like environment.
Call 973-822-1772 today to schedule an appointment
with one of our sleep experts.
- Baron KG, Reid KJ, Zee PC. Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013; 9(8):819-824.
- Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014; 8(6):375-379.
- National Sleep Foundation. Home/Ask the Expert. How does exercise help those with chronic insomnia?
sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/how-does-exercise-help-those-chronic-insomnia. Accessed March 20, 2018.
- National Sleep Foundation Sleep.org. Circadian Rhythm and Your Body Clock. Understanding your body’s internal clock — or circadian rhythm — is the first step to better sleep. Sleep.org. Accessed March 20, 2018.