Not Sleeping Well? Done Right, Daily Activity Can Help

Not Sleeping Well? Done Right, Daily Activity Can Help

Lee esto en EspañolIf sleeping doesn’t come easy, you’ve probably already tried a few things you thought might help. If they didn’t help, there may be another option — more activity each day.

It may seem odd to say that more activity can help you relax and rest better. But it may. Studies show that people who get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day may see better sleep quality as soon as that same night.

We know working out is good for our bodies in many ways. But it can also help your mental health in ways that improve sleep. Daily activity can help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. More importantly, it helps you get better, deeper sleep.

Timing Matters

Does just any activity help you sleep better? Yes. What matters is picking something you like and sticking with it, experts say.

What matters even more is when you exercise. If you’re active too close to bedtime, it can backfire. That’s because:

  • Aerobic exercise makes the body produce endorphins. Those chemicals may spur brain activity that keeps some people awake. If that’s you, try exercising several hours or more before bedtime so your brain has time to relax.
  • Your core body temperature climbs with exercise. That may make your body think it’s time to wake up. When your body temp is lower, your body may get the sign that it’s time to sleep.

Everyone is different. So when it comes to timing your exercise, you should listen to your body and see what works best for you, says the medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleepleaving site icon

The Sleep/Exercise Connection

Sleep and exercise impact each other in many ways, says the Sleep Foundation. leaving site icon Not getting enough sleep, or only getting poor quality sleep, can lead to lower levels of physical activity. And lower levels of activity can lead to worse sleep.

If you do exercise, in addition to it helping you sleep better, you may find it:

  • Helps you not feel groggy during the day
  • Helps you quit taking sleep medicines
  • Aids in weight loss, which can reduce sleep-disturbing health problems like sleep apnea

Better sleep can mean more energy, and it’s easier to exercise when you have energy, says the Cleveland Clinic. leaving site icon Boosting your activity level also helps:

  • Set your body’s clock. Exercising outdoors gives you natural light, which can set a good sleep cycle. That helps your body know when to wind down. But indoor workouts can still help you get good sleep.
  • Relieve anxiety. Stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems. Exercise can help you relax and avoid dwelling on things that keep you awake at night.
  • Tire you out. Getting more exercise helps your body crave sleep. Just don’t overdo it. Exhaustion does not help with sleep. So make sure the time is right. Do high intensity workouts earlier in the day. Or add more movement with chores and walks instead of higher intensity workouts.
Get Started

If you’re not already active, start by adding a little activity in each day. You can build up to more activity over time and figure out what works for you. If you haven’t been active in a while, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new activity or increasing your activity.

If you’re already active and still having sleep problems, look at the timing and intensity of your activity. You can keep an exercise and sleep diary to track what you’re doing and figure out what works for you. When you hit on what works, it will soon become routine.

Make sure you also:

  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime.
  • Eat a light dinner. Large or heavy meals can keep you from sleeping.
  • Skip drinking alcohol before bedtime.

If you’ve tried it all and good sleep is still hard to find, talk with your doctor. Don’t just keep putting up with it. Refreshing sleep is vital for your mind and body.

Sources: Exercising for Better Sleep, leaving site icon Johns Hopkins Medicine; Exercise and Sleep, leaving site icon Sleep Foundation, 2023; How Exercise Affects Your Sleep, leaving site icon Cleveland Clinic, 2020