Exercise to help sleep takes planning, but can greatly increase the chance of getting a good night's rest. An exercise program not only helps people sleep better, it also encourages greater waking efficiency and alertness.
How Are Exercise and Sleep Related?
Insomnia improves with regular exercise, according to a report from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008). Moderate exercise seems to help reduce anxiety that sometimes interferes with sleep.
In the study, presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, researchers found that moderate exercise made it easier for people with insomnia to fall asleep and stay asleep. Exercise may aid sleep by releasing tension and contributing to a drop in body temperature that makes it easier to fall asleep.
Making Sleep and Exercise a Top Priority
Adding exercise to sleep better can improve sleep quality. However, exercise to help sleep need not be a dramatic increase in activity. Simply raising the heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes a day, a few days a week may be enough exercise to improve sleep.
When Should People Exercise to Sleep Better?
Exercise can improve sleep quality without the potential side effects of sleep medications. But in order for exercise to improve sleep, people need to exercise at the right time. Late-night exercise makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Exercise and sleep seem to interact best when people exercise within three to six hours of going to bed.
Sleep and Exercise Options
In order to get the maximum benefit from sleep and exercise, aim for some type of cardiovascular exercise at least six days a week, such as:
Riding a bike
Strength training is important for building muscle, increasing bone density and raising metabolism. Incorporate some light weight lifting into exercise programs to get the most benefit from the time spent exercising.
Another exercise to sleep better involves stretching throughout the day to relieve stiffness and tension. Yoga classes and physical therapists teach stretching techniques. Slow, gentle stretches at bedtime might also improve sleep and increase relaxation.