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How to Get Better Sleep with Exercise

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Most of us know that getting better sleep is the key to having more energy. It also helps us be more productive, and generally, feel better through the day.
 
Yet, it’s sometimes hard to figure out how to get a better sleep when we are so busy.
 
There is plenty of research done on getting sleep and how lack of sleep affects our health. Here we will dive into how you can improve sleep quality with exercise based on available research.

How Lack Of Sleep Effects Health

lack of sleep woman sleeping on desk with coffee

There are many ways sleep affects our health. Plenty of research has been done on sleep deprivation, even at small amounts and how it can play a role in our daily functioning and overall health.

Some of the most significant are:

  • metabolic effects and metabolic syndrome
  • proinflammatory response
  • stress responsivity
  • reduced quality of life
  • emotional distress and mood disorders
  • cognitive, memory, and performance deficits
  • hypertension
  • weight related issues
  • cardiovascular disease
  • type-2 diabetes
  • colorectal cancer
  • all-cause mortality is also increased in men with sleep disturbances
  • worsening of present gastrointestinal disorders
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Now, this information is not meant to scare you or make you feel hopeless. It is only meant to show you how important sleep is to our health.

We are often preoccupied with diet and exercise. Particularly, diet. There are a million different opinions on what foods we should and shouldn’t eat and in which quantities.

This is because diet plans and exercise trends are easy to market and are lucrative niches. Sleep, however, is difficult to monetize. 

Learning how to get better sleep is also a more passive experience. Sleep doesn’t feel productive because, well, it’s inactive!

Focusing on getting better sleep, is arguably the most important thing you can do for your health.

If you’re unsure about how you sleep currently, you can try trackers and devices like Oura Ring. See here for an Oura ring review.

(for more on improving sleep see this article on Self Care)

How Exercise Can Help You Get Better Sleep

women exercising
Sleep Smarter
Stress and Sleep Supplements
Weighted Cooling Blanket
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Blackout Curtains
Humidifier for Bedroom
Gradual Wake Up Light Alarm Clock
Notebook
Sleep Smarter
Stress and Sleep Supplements
Weighted Cooling Blanket
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Blackout Curtains
Humidifier for Bedroom
Gradual Wake Up Light Alarm Clock
Notebook

Exercise can help you get better sleep in a few ways.

Exercise helps with the ability to get to sleep sooner and also reduces the time awake during the night.

Consistent exercise can grant more restorative deep sleep. This lowers feelings of sleepiness during the day.

Notice, there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and exercise. 

So, while exercise can help improve sleep, a lack of quality sleep can also cause us to get less exercise. It is a sort of chicken or egg situation.

Both quality sleep and quality exercise are a struggle for people.

They are concurrent epidemics in the medical literature.

One-third of employed adults report only getting 6 hours of sleep or less each night. A third of all adults also report significant sleep complaints.

Insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) are the two most common sleep disorders. Each has prevalence rates exceeding 10% in the adult population.

Obesity plays a large role in the prevalence of disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, including sleep apnea.

What Type of Exercise is Best For Improving Sleep

exercise with slam balls three women

Any type of exercise is better for our health than being sedentary. For improving sleep, studies point to moderate and vigorous activity over light activity.

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, mowing the lawn, swimming, hiking a steep hill, or lifting weights at a moderate pace.
 
Vigorous activity is anything that gets your heart rate going and has you sweating. Examples are running, sprinting, boxing, rowing, and lifting heavy weights with little rest.

(related: Kettlebell Squats and Swings HIIT Circuit)

Moderate-to-vigorous activity may be best for improving sleep but keep in mind that stress can hinder sleep quality.

Simply walking can vastly improve stress levels. If walking is all you can manage, do not think it is all for naught! Keep stepping!

(you may also be interested in Why You Don’t Need 10,000 Steps a Day)

Bowflex Selectable Weights
Gaiam Yoga Mat
Motivation Water Bottle
TRX Suspension Trainer
Kettlebells
Loop Bands
Bowflex Selectable Weights
Gaiam Yoga Mat
Motivation Water Bottle
TRX Suspension Trainer
Kettlebells
Loop Bands
Bowflex Selectable Weights
Gaiam Yoga Mat
Motivation Water Bottle
TRX Suspension Trainer
Kettlebells
Loop Bands

When Should You Exercise For Better Sleep

time of day exercise timing dawn bicycle

There are a lot of myths related to when you should exercise for best results.

This includes opinions on when to exercise. Many people say exercising in the evening is bad for sleep quality.

However, the research shows that there is no difference and no proof that exercising in the evening is detrimental to sleep.

Exercising any time of day is much better than skipping exercise because of the time of day.

 

Even so, there are people who experience negative effects from exercising near bedtime. I was one of those people for a long time. 

 

During a time of high stress in my life when I suffered from insomnia, exercising near bedtime made it much worse.

 

During this time, any intense exercise was hindering my ability to sleep. My stress levels were too high and my body was unable to handle added stress from vigorous activity. 

 

If this sounds like you, consider backing off very intense activity altogether. Be sure to try and exercise earlier in the day (I found 2 pm start time to be the cut off).

In case you are curious, the side effects that most disturbed my sleep during this time were:

  • restless legs
  • unable to get to sleep
  • wakefulness during the night
  • an excessive need to urinate during the night
  • leg cramping
  • racing thoughts
  • night sweats

If you are suffering from any of these things, do consult a physician. Feel free to reach out and send me an email or comment below if you are curious about how I improved my health.

See also:

Are You Too Stressed to Lose Weight? Why You Could Be and How to Fix It

sleeping get better sleep

Although more research is needed, it is very safe to say that better sleep can result from getting exercise. Also, exercise is more possible when you are nicely rested.

Take time for yourself, set up an exercise routine and a sleep routine so that you can feel your best!

For help with implementing healthy habits, you can sign up for my Motivated as F*ck Mini Course or download any of the many calendars, habit trackers, workout planners and more in my Free Resource Library.

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