Exercise and Sleep – “Working Out” a Way to Get a Good Sleep

By Clinton Marquardt - Sleep & Fatigue Specialist

September 2, 2008

better sleep

How Exercise Can Promote Restfulness

Exercise is a very important factor to consider when it comes to establishing good sleep habits. It has been shown that exercise can improve your sleep, if it is done properly.

The deepest stages of sleep, stages 3 and 4, are known for their role in restoring energy and physical well-being. When you exercise, your body repairs itself by getting more deep sleep and this in turn gives you more energy and improves your physical well-being.

To improve your sleep through exercise, balance the following three factors:

  • Your current level of physical fitness.
  • The time slot of your exercise.
  • The intensity of your workout.

1. Personal Level of Physical Fitness:  If you are physically fit, regular aerobic exercise can improve your sleep. However, if you tend to be a bit of a couch potato, then it is best to gradually build up to a regular exercise routine.

2. The Best Time to do Exercise:  Although most research shows that late-night exercise does not disrupt the biology of your sleep, it may leave you feeling pumped up and energetic. This can make it hard to sleep for a couple of hours after you exercise. If you find it difficult to sleep after exercising, workout earlier. There seems to be a magic number for workout timing and it may be related to the core body temperature increase that happens with exercise. For some people, exercising 3 or 4 hours before bed time helps them get a really deep sleep. The theory here is that your body cools down 3 or 4 hours after working out. When your body is in a cooling mode, you sleep more deeply. If this doesn’t work within your daytime routine, try exercising in the morning or late afternoon.

3. Workout Level:  If you are not used to it, overly strenuous exercise may cause pain which can disrupt sleep. Remember not to overdo it. Gradually work up to exercising intensely for 30 minutes three times a week. Remember that even small amounts of exercise or light exercise is better than no exercise.

A Final Note:  Exercise will deepen your sleep, improve your energy and increase your physical well-being. Exercise will even help to reduce stress and that will help your sleep too. Please speak with your doctor before undertaking any new exercise program.

Thanks to L. Orr, BA, RPSGT for her help with this article.

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