Exercising to Sleep

Featured Image Exercising To Sleep

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep. There’s also nothing quite like a bad night’s sleep. Many insomniacs resort to medications to get the sleep they want and need. Others go night after night fighting sleep tossing and turning. It can be miserable, but there might be a positive alternative:  Exercise. Is it possible that exercising can lead to better sleep?

Research indicates there is a correlation between exercise and sleep. Those who exercise tend to fall asleep easier and to rest more deeply. Of course, there are exceptions.

Before you hit the pillow, read on.

Feeling Tired

If you work your body hard enough, it will get tired. You have put in the effort and your muscles feel it. Feeling tired may be the ticket to a restful night’s sleep.

Some experts have found that a good cardio workout can enhance sleep without medication. Exercising outdoors might be even more beneficial. Exercising to sleep effectively requires just a little attention and experimentation.

Handling Stress

Worrisome thoughts can make sleep difficult. Many people find regular exercise helps with handling stress. If you feel less stressed, your mind is less likely to wander at night.

Exercise endorphins lift our spirits, which might contribute to a reduction in stress or how it is handled. I have walked into the gym after a stressful day, had a good workout and walked out feeling so much better. I sweat out my worries.

While many studies are inconclusive, the results tend to point to exercise benefiting sleep. Much like a runner’s high, exercise releases endorphins… that’s a really good feeling. Once that levels off, there is a strong probability of relaxation.

Mary Mac Williams has been a distance runner for years, competing in numerous marathons including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Berlin. “My run is my favorite part of each day,” Williams said. “Running takes the stress out of my busy work schedule and helps me sleep well at night.”

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When to Exercise

The best time to exercise, in relation to sleep, varies with individuals.

For many people, it is usually recommended to avoid exercise two-three hours before bed. This allows time for the body to naturally wind down.

For a few others, they find exercising close to bedtime as a part of their routine and rest easily.

Body Heating and Cooling

Another reason exercise helps with sleep is how our bodies heat up with exercise, then cool down afterward. The heating and cooling can have another relaxation effect. Mimic that with a warm bath before bed and see if the results find deeper sleep patterns.

Greg Hayes is an avid swimmer. He swims almost every day, mostly in the ocean. In the winter, this can be quite cold, but he seems to have conditioned his body to heat up in the cold water and air.

“Exercise directly correlates to a restful body,” Hayes said. “Swimming is one of my favorite exercises from the standpoint that it is a total body workout that is free of the impact stress that running, cardio machines, walking or even biking put upon the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. It provides both cardio and resistance exercise for the body. Both aerobic and anaerobic swimming works the body with and without oxygen which I believe provides for a complete workout that delivers gratification to the muscles, lungs and body tissue without the stress of gravity.” Ultimately, it leads to restful sleep.

The Right Formula

Obviously, we can’t put exercise in a bottle to make it easier to take.

Exercise has the potential to be a sleep elixir. Since we are all individuals who respond differently to the effects of a workout, timing, the type of exercise, duration, intensity, etc., we must figure out what works for each of us. Hopefully, the right combination will find you in a deep slumber.




Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.
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