Regular exercise is great for your heart, your bones, your lungs, and your mind, but you might not know that exercise also helps you sleep. Physical activity has been shown to help you fall asleep more quickly and improve sleep quality. Even those people who suffer from bouts of insomnia can find some relief through exercise.
Exercise reduces stress, a common cause of sleep disruption. It increases the production of endorphins (feel-good hormones) and generally improves a sense of well-being. Similarly, exercise can reduce anxiety and help to alleviate depression, which can also cause sleep disruption.
Changes to your body temperature that occur during exercise improves your chances of getting a good sleep. Your body temperature rises a bit during aerobic exercise. Later in the day, your body temperature drops slightly, making you feel tired and helping you fall asleep more quickly.
Travelers who experience jet lag or other body clock problems can use exercise as a means to help the body more quickly adjust to a time change and get to sleep according to their physical location’s proper schedule.
So…what kind of exercise should you do and when should you do it?
- Aerobic exercise is the key, moving at least 30 minutes 3-5 times a week. If you are just getting started, even one 10-minute walk a day can help improve sleep.
- Make sure that you’ve completed your exercise at least two hours before bedtime. Exercise can have an energizing effect immediately after making it hard to fall asleep if you exercise right before bed.
If sleeping problems continue, discuss your concerns with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication. You may need to adjust your diet, address chronic stress, or consider other helpful bedtime activities to make sure you are getting the quality sleep you need.