Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep: #2 Exercise

Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep: #2 Exercise

Exercise and Sleep?

Physical exercise can help improve several sleep problems, including more restful sleep and reducing sleep onset (6,7). At just 30 minutes every other day, studies show that physical exercise can improve sleep quality (8,9).

Pooh always fit in his Stoutness Exercises (Source: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree)

Why Does Exercise Help Sleep?

Exercise improves our sleep because of the relationship between sleep and our physical and mental states (10,11). How well we sleep is connected to our situations, our personal tendencies, and our emotional well-being. For instance, our sleep is affected by situational stress, how we respond to stress, our levels of anxiety and/or depression, excessive rumination and obsessive thinking (when the mind won’t stop running!), and even being preoccupied with the issue of sleep itself. 

Thankfully, exercise can help reduce the severity of such issues (11,12). Exercise promotes healing effects for negative stress and upsetting emotional states, and it helps to balance our physical states as well. Accordingly, it can help alleviate problems that disrupt sleep wellness, in addition to reducing the power such problems have over our sleep. Furthermore, it can help us achieve better relaxation and calmness as we get into bed.

How to Use Exercise for Better Sleep

Even with as little as 30 minutes of exercise 3x per week, studies show that physical exercise improves sleep quality (8). This benefit applies to both cardiovascular exercise (running, biking, walking) and resistance based exercise (weight lifting, yoga, Pilates) (9). 
If you are already exercising but are still struggling with sleep, there may be some changes that could improve your results. For example, it may be worth exploring additional exercise or more difficult routines, as it’s possible that more exercise will provide more benefits; research shows that increasing the difficulty and frequency of exercise can provide proportionally greater improvements to sleep (13). Another potential change may be the time you exercise; some research shows that it’s more effective to exercise in the late afternoon or evening (2).

Remember: Do What Works and is Safe for YOU!

However, what’s most important is that you find a routine and pattern that works for you and is safe for you to partake in (2). And while exercise is shown to improve sleep to some degree for anyone, it also matters that it comes in the right form and time for you. Moreover, when exploring major changes in your activity level or exercise routine, it can be helpful to consult with a physician. Remember, this is for the benefit of YOUR sleep and YOUR health! 

Thank you for reading today, and keep an eye out for the next entry in the series: Behavioral Training. (And if you missed the first, check out Sleep Hygiene here!)


  • 6. Yang, P. Y., Ho, K. H., Chen, H. C., & Chien, M. Y. (2012). Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review. Journal of physiotherapy58(3), 157-163.
  • 7. Montgomery, P., & Dennis, J. A. (2002). Physical exercise for sleep problems in adults aged 60+. The Cochrane Library.
  • 8. Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep medicine11(9), 934-940.
  • 9. Kovacevic, A., Mavros, Y., Heisz, J. J., & Singh, M. A. F. (2017). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews.
  • 10. Yao, K. W., Yu, S., Cheng, S. P., & Chen, I. J. (2008). Relationships between personal, depression and social network factors and sleep quality in community-dwelling older adults. Journal of Nursing Research16(2), 131-139.
  • 11. Brand, S., Gerber, M., Beck, J., Hatzinger, M., PĆ¼hse, U., & Holsboer-Trachsler, E. (2010). High exercise levels are related to favorable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescents: a comparison of athletes and controls. Journal of Adolescent Health46(2), 133-141.
  • 12. Fox, K. R. (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public health nutrition2(3a), 411-418.
  • 13. Kovacevic, A., Mavros, Y., Heisz, J. J., & Singh, M. A. F. (2017). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews.
  • 14. Stepanski, E. J., & Wyatt, J. K. (2003). Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep medicine reviews7(3), 215-225.


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I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

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