Sleep Benefits of Exercise
Exercise has numerous benefits for your health, from helping you maintain a healthy weight to improving your physical and mental wellbeing. But did you know that exercise can also help you achieve better sleep? Research has consistently demonstrated that physical activity can improve sleep quality and duration, with some experts even recommending exercise as a low-cost approach to better sleep.
In this article, we'll go over the benefits of exercise on sleep, including the effects that your fitness habits may have on your nighttime sleep.
Benefits of Exercise on Sleep Quality and Duration
People who have a physically active lifestyle tend to have better sleep. Studies have demonstrated that moderate to vigorous exercise can improve sleep quality, help people sleep longer, and increase their ability to perform daily activities. Plus, exercise can bring about other benefits such as stronger bones and a healthier brain.
Physical activity has been proved to affect sleep stages, circadian rhythm, and nighttime sleep temperature. Though researchers are still working to understand the exact mechanisms of how exercise affects sleep, there are a few specific effects that have been revealed up to this point.
Studies have consistently shown a positive correlation between exercise and sleep duration and sleep quality. Adults who exercise can experience improved sleep quality, longer deep sleep, and less daytime sleepiness. Regular exercise can also reduce latency—the amount of time it takes to fall asleep—and increase sleep efficiency, which is the time spent in bed sleeping, as opposed to hours awake.
Though not every study has demonstrated that exercise increases the total amount of time spent asleep, a comprehensive review of research studies on the link between exercise and sleep indicated that exercise does indeed improve both sleep quality and quantity.
Effects of Exercise on Sleep Disorders
Exercise can also help reduce the chances of certain sleep disorders or manage the effects of existing disorders. For instance, one study found that exercise training improved the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
A lack of physical activity has been linked to a higher risk of developing insomnia. But researchers have noted that after four months of regular physical activity, people with insomnia reported reduced problems sleeping.
How Much Exercise Do You Need to Improve Sleep?
Research suggests that even moderate physical activity is enough to improve sleep quality. One study found that participants who engaged in moderate exercise for 30 minutes three times a week experienced better sleep, which included longer sleep duration and a decrease in daytime sleepiness.
However, the amount of exercise depends on the individual. You should talk to your doctor about your specific needs. Generally, if you want to improve your sleep quality, physical activity should be regular, moderate to vigorous, and done at least three times a week.
What Are the Possible Risks of Exercising Before Bed?
Exercising right before bed can interfere with your sleep, as it may cause your body temperature to remain slightly elevated even when you lie down in bed. Because physical activity raises body temperature, exercising right before bedtime sends a signal to your body that it should stay awake and alert.
If you do want to exercise before bed, you might want to try mild stretching or relaxation exercises that don’t raise your body’s temperature so much. Low-intensity exercises such as yoga, tai chi, walking, and light stretching can be beneficial for sleep.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Exercise on Sleep
Exercise has numerous benefits for your overall health—it can keep your body strong, your mind sharp, and your waistline trim. Additionally, research suggests that exercise can benefit your sleep. Adults who are physically active tend to have an overall better sleep quality and longer sleep duration.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get better sleep, adding moderate physical activity into your daily routine may help. As always, be sure to consult your doctor first to ensure that the exercise you choose is safe and right for you.