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The Benefits of Exercise for Better Sleep

January 04, 2018

In the US, 35-40% of the population has trouble falling asleep or struggles with daytime fatigue.

Chronic insomnia is a serious health issue. All of the body’s natural functions regenerate during sleep.

Sleep is vital to learning and memory, reduces inflammation, relieves stress, helps with weight management, and promotes normal hormone balance.

Sleep enhances immune response and stimulates the body’s natural detoxification processes. The brain actually develops new cells while sleeping!

Recent research shows the brain detoxifies harmful toxins and proteins during sleep through the glymphatic system, which controls cerebrospinal fluid flow.

Getting enough sleep may be a key to decreasing risk of Alzheimer’s disease or neurological illnesses later in life.

Your body clearly needs sleep for all areas of health and exercising regularly may be one of the easiest ways to get it.

Exercise Your Way To Better Sleep

Getting better quality sleep may be a few workouts away. A study from the National Sleep Foundation finds people who get 150 minutes of exercise a week experience a whopping 65% increase in sleep quality and feel less sleepy during the day.

This study covered 2,600 men and women between 18-85 years old. The results showed exercise benefits were across the board for both sexes and at all ages, independent of other lifestyle factors.

Be aware that exercise is not a quick fix for everyone with a sleep issue. Studies suggest it may take several weeks or months of regular exercise before you see a significant change in sleep if you have insomnia.

Still, regular exercise may be a better choice than sleep enhancing drugs which have side effects like drowsiness or lead to addictions.

The time of day that you exercise is important, too. For better sleep, getting early morning exercise is best. Exercising later in the day may give you too much energy, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from exercise. Moderate impact exercise like walking, light jogging, aerobics, yoga, or a leisurely bike ride seems to produce better results for sleep problems than high intensity training.

How Does Exercise Help You Sleep?

Exercise encourages better rest in many ways. Here are a few of the ways exercise can help you get better sleep.

Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature. Experts theorize a natural post exercise temperature drop may make it easier for your body to fall asleep.

Exercise combats depression and anxiety, common causes of insomnia. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, feel good chemicals in the body that decrease pain, encourage feelings of happiness, and even increase self-esteem.

Exercise can adjust the body’s circadian rhythm (body clock), correcting imbalances or a poor timing issue linked to insomnia. Exercising early in the day is the best choice for insomnia related to problems with the circadian rhythm.

How to Get Started

Exercise really doesn’t have to be complicated in order to work. Start with simple stretches every morning to oxygenate your tissues and loosen your muscles.

Then, go for a 30-minute walk with a friend or hit the gym if you prefer that environment.

There are so many ways to bring exercise into your life: dance, sports, aerobics, swimming, bike riding, or hiking. Even deep breathing is a form of exercise.

The important thing is to find activities that you like and stick to them. Most people with chronic sleep issues need to exercise regularly for a minimum of 1-4 months to see improvements.

I like to switch around my exercise regimen so I don’t get bored. Try a yoga class one day, and aerobics the next.

Go for a swim if it’s warm where you live or explore a favorite trail. Long walks on the beach with the family dog are a great choice. Your pet will sleep better and appreciate it, too.

Find what works best for you and let the benefits of regular exercise reinvigorate your health and quality of sleep.


Brain may flush out toxins during sleep (2013, October). Retrieved from National Institutes of Health,
How does exercise help those with chronic insomnia? (2016). Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation,
Sanchez-Mariscal J. (2016, March). Does exercise affect how well you sleep? Retrieved from Huffington Post,
Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep. (2016). Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation,
Reynolds, G. (2013, August). How exercise can help us sleep better. Retrieved from Well,