With summer right around the bend, it’s getting harder to find a free bench at the gym or secure a spot in your favorite hot yoga class. Summer is usually associated with bikini season and getting fit, and with New Year’s resolutions still top of mind, people are prioritizing exercise now more than ever. But there’s more to exercise than just looking great. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of exercise, how it impacts sleep quality, and tips for getting the most out of your next workout.

Exercise and its Effects on Sleep

As obvious as it seems, people shouldn’t view looking good as the sole benefit of working out. Exercise is deeply beneficial to our sleep health, and you don’t have to run marathons, squat 350 or scale mountains to reap the rewards. A regular routine of moderate exercise, 20 to 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, can positively impact your shut-eye. Here are just a few of the benefits of a regular workout schedule.

  • Exercise increases time spent in deep sleep, a phase of sleep that is essential to the body’s physical restoration and rejuvenation.
  • Regular exercise lowers stress, a common sleep disruptor, by easing anxiety and aiding in mental and physical relaxation to make sleep easier to achieve and sustain.
  • Exercise helps with maintaining a healthy weight, a characteristic that protects sleep over the course of a lifetime and lowers the risk of developing certain sleep disorders.
  • Exercise raises the body’s temperature, enhancing the sleep-inducing effects associated with the drop in temperature the body experiences as part of its natural physiological process of preparing for sleep.
  • Physical activity during the day may also contribute to greater sleep duration, an increase in the total amount of sleep received in a night.
  • People who exercise tend to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly.

Best Times to Exercise

To maximize exercise’s sleep-enhancing benefits and avoid any interference with nightly rest, timing is essential. Morning exercise boosts alertness and focus, and helps to strengthen the internal body clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Late afternoon and early evening are also ideal times for exercising. Body temperature is at its highest at the end of the day, and as previously mentioned, enhanced drops in body temperature are associated with sleep onset. Just remember to finish exercising at least three hours before your bedtime to avoid sleep disruption.

It’s important to note that exercising for hours on end to improve your sleep isn’t necessary; a little goes a long way. Nor do you need to get your daily exercise all at once. Breaking up exercise throughout the day will provide the same benefit, provided you don’t schedule exercise too close to bedtime.

Since all types of exercise will help sleep, it’s important to engage in a physical activity you like. Practice yoga in the morning or take a dance class. Walk the dog, go for a jog, hit the gym or join your company’s softball team. The more you enjoy exercise, the more likely you are to stick with it – and the more you will strengthen your overall sleep routine.

“The Benefits of Exercise for Sleep”. Michael Breus, PHD and Board Certified Sleep Specialist. http://www.thesleepdoctor.com/2017/05/22/benefits-exercise-sleep/.
“Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress”. Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/art-20044469.
“National Sleep Foundation Poll Finds Exercise Key to Good Sleep”. National Sleep Foundation. sleepfoundation.org/media-center/national-sleep-foundation-poll-finds-exercise-key.
“Exercise Helps Ready the Body for a Good Night’s Sleep”. Premiere Physician Network. www.premierphysiciannet.com/About-Us/News-Center/Press-Releases/Exercise-Helps-Ready-the-Body-for-a-Good-Night-s-Sleep/.

Stay up-to-date on the latest news & developments in sleep science