Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our health. And it’s one of the last things we want to do when we are tired. But don’t collapse on the sofa just yet! Numerous studies have shown that exercise improves sleep quality. Better sleep means more energy. More energy, better sleep. It’s a terrific cycle.
Falling asleep can be difficult, especially if we are experiencing stress, feeling anxious, or uncomfortable, but there is a natural sleep-aid that’s easy and accessible to everyone – exercise. Research suggests that moderate physical activity can be effective for relieving issues with insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine investigated the relationship between sleep and exercise. They used data from an earlier sleep study to examine the impact of physical activity on sleep, mood, and quality of life among a group of adults aged 55 and older. None of the adults exercised regularly. The researchers divided the adults into two groups. One group remained with their sedentary lifestyle while the other group began a regular exercise program that consisted of three to four 30-minutes sessions per week of moderate aerobic exercise. The exercise group completed 16 weeks of exercise and experienced significantly improved sleep. This group also reported improvements to their mood and quality of life. The researchers confirmed that exercise has a dramatic impact on sleep. The exercise group wound up sleeping as much as an additional 1.25 hours per night compared to the non-exercise group.
While there are no magic bullets or quick fixes to solve sleep problems, there are significant benefits to be had by sticking to a regular exercise routine.
Baron KG, Reid KJ, Zee PC. Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2013 Aug 15;9(8):819-24.
Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine. 2010 Oct 1;11(9):934-40.