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How can exercise help you sleep?

By The Health News Team | March 29, 2024
How can exercise help you sleep?

We often sacrifice sleep for work, family, to-do lists or binge-watching our favorite shows. According to studies, a third of U.S. adults regularly sleep less than the recommended seven or more hours.

However, regular inadequate sleep is a risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and obesity. Getting enough sleep is not just a luxury — it's essential for good health.

There is significant evidence that exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, Olga Hays, manager of employee well-being at Sharp HealthCare, says. She shares four benefits of exercise and sleep.


Improved quality of sleep

Physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost immune function, support heart health and control stress and anxiety.


More time spent asleep

Being physically active requires you to use energy, making you feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day. Research suggests that regular exercise, even in small doses, can help boost your length of sleep.


Reduced stress and anxiety

Stress is a common cause of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and sleeping restlessly during the night. Exercise is a natural remedy for anxiety and other mood disorders — just five minutes of exercise can create anti-anxiety responses in your body.


Less risk of insomnia and other sleep disorders

Research suggests that aerobic exercise may be effective in helping to reduce insomnia symptoms. It also indicates that for people with insomnia, the benefits of exercise may be gradual rather than immediate. Studies have also found that exercise can help lower the severity of sleep-disordered breathing and may help reduce the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.

According to Hays, sleep is essential to good health and plays a critical role in your immune function. It boosts your metabolism, improves your memory and makes it easier to learn new things.

“In addition to better overall sleep, the benefits of exercise are numerous and proven,” says Hays. “Even in small doses, exercise can improve your mood, protect your bones, improve your memory and brain function, control your weight and reduce your risk of chronic disease.”

Exercise before bedtime can make sleep a challenge

Aerobic exercise causes your body to release chemicals known as endorphins, which can create a level of activity in the brain that keep some people awake. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exercising less than one to two hours before bedtime to allow the effects of these endorphins to wear off.

“As anyone who has tried to lose weight or build muscle knows, when it comes to improving health, patience is necessary to see the benefits of a new behavior,” says Hays. “However, when it comes to using exercise as a tool to improve sleep, you can start to enjoy benefits overnight.”

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