Exercise more for better sleep

There has been some really good recent research looking at the effect of exercise on sleep. You may be aware that the World Health Organisation tells us that we must be doing at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. However, to promote good sleep, it really matters how hard you exercise.

Can exercise help you sleep?

Regular exercisers sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnoea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. But even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—improves sleep quality. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.

Exercise speeds up your metabolism, elevates body temperature, and stimulates hormones such as cortisol. This isn’t a problem if you’re exercising in the morning or afternoon, but if you exercise too close to bed it can interfere with sleep.

For better sleep, time your exercise right. Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re still experiencing sleep difficulties, move your workouts even earlier. Relaxing, low-impact exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.

Did you know?

You can calculate your maximum heart rate by taking your age away from the number 200. E.g. if you are 55, your maximum heart rate should be 150bpm.

Further information

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