How to Sleep Better with Exercise

Three Methods:Determining the Right ExerciseKeeping to an Exercise ScheduleIncorporating Yoga for Better Sleep

A number of sleep studies have discovered exercise promotes better sleep. Without exercise, your sleep cycles may not be deep enough to promote the restful sleep that provides enough energy for your daily routine. Even walking 1 mile (1.6 km) can help your sleep cycles. Well-timed, sufficient exercise will soon have you snoozing soundly and feeling better.

Method 1
Determining the Right Exercise

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    Stimulate your heart by getting some aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is when oxygenated blood gets pumped to deliver oxygen to the muscles. Given that roughly half of American, middle-aged adults complain of insomnia, figuring out how to improve sleep through aerobic exercise is of utmost importance. Some basic improved sleep concepts follow:[1]
    • Get your heart rate going, but make it moderate enough to allow you to still keep up a conversation. You can choose fast walking, swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing, biking, dancing or using an elliptical machine.
    • Work out at roughly 75% of your max heart rate (i.e. 220 minus age). Take your heart rate while working out, counting the number of heart beats in 15 seconds and then multiple it by four.
    • Try to exercise five times a week for 30 minutes. More is fine, but less is not preferred.
    • Keep at it for about four months. Results will not be immediate, but after an extended time there will be visual benefits as well as probable sleep improvements.
    • Not only will exercise improve general nighttime sleep, but it will also improve the post-lunch fog that falls over most people.[2]
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    Expend yourself fully. Some studies have indicated minimal physiological difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise.[3] Try pushing yourself as hard as you can in short bursts. Training anaerobically literally means you’re training without oxygen, so you won't be able to do the exercises for extended periods. Figure a way to periodically go as hard as possible.
    • Try to aim for 85% of your max heart rate, or higher, to go anaerobic.
    • Sprint like your life depends on it. You won’t make it far, but build in a few rest periods and it will wear you out enough to produce the desired physical and sleep-related results.
    • Jump up and down with weights. Start with small dumbbells at first, and either increase the weight or the height of the jump as you become accustomed to the difficulty.
    • People who engaged in regular anaerobic activity lost fat more quickly, and secreted more growth hormones, which helps you to repair your body's systems, heal more quickly, and rest more soundly.[4]
    • You may also wish to try high-intensity interval training in which you alternate periods of low-intensity exercise (like walking) with bursts of high-intensity exercise (like sprinting).
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    Pump some iron. Lifting weights has been shown to aid sleep in a variety of ways. Aim to lift weights two to three times per week with plenty of rest between muscle group sessions. Once you feel comfortable with a specific weight, make gradual 5–10 percent increases to the repetitions or the weight.[5]
    • Not only does strength training improve sleep, it also lowers weight and helps fight off sleep apnea.
    • Weight lifting helps with depression.[6]
    • Since sleep is a time for muscle recovery, resistance training acts as a jump-start towards sleep. You may even fall asleep faster and make it through the entire night without interruption.

Method 2
Keeping to an Exercise Schedule

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    Find a time to exercise daily. For many people, the easiest time to work it in is in the morning. Some studies indicate a morning workout leads to more restful sleep. Many people prefer to exercise in the morning because it helps them to wake up and be energized for the day. It’s possible the exercise sets a body up for the rest of the day, exposing us to sunlight, and even aligning the circadian cycle for the day.[7]
    • You can also exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. Although you may already feel exhausted during this part of the day, exercise at this time may energize you for a few minutes, free up some room for dinner, and use up your remaining energy stores. Some studies even indicate afternoon exercise may be most beneficial for the circadian rhythm. On top of that, the energy release could cause you to have deeper sleep.
    • As a result of increased body temperature and other factors, some recommend building in a buffer between working out and sleeping. Exercise before sleep, however, has been found in some studies to actually improve the quality of sleep.[8]
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    Fight the urge to dismiss exercise. While many people have a variety of excuses for skipping exercise, failing to exercise may create the lethargy that ends up in a vicious cycle of insomnia and fatigue. Try a few motivation techniques to ensure you get your necessary exercise.[9]
    • Give yourself a visual cue to work out by keeping your workout gear in plain sight. Seeing your running shoes every day could almost shame you to put them on for a run.
    • Buy plenty of workout clothes. Don’t let laundry day act as an excuse for skipping the gym.
    • Associate your workouts with a cause. There are plenty of ways to fundraise for charity for great causes that link up well to exercise. Get pure donations or iteration-based donations for a charity you feel connected with and you’ll feel too guilty to become lackadaisical.
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    Choose the type of exercise that works best with your routine. When, where and how you exercise can affect your sleep cycles. If you don’t have a lot of time, try one of the following suggestions:
    • Do crunches during your commute. Squeeze your abs for 30 second intervals, relax, then do it again.
    • Use foot power to get to work. Even if it’s jogging from public transportation to your house, fitting in a few minutes every day can make a big difference.
    • Squats around the house are easy to do if you fit them into your daily routine. Picking items up off the floor, grabbing the oven door, putting on your shoes, there are literally unlimited ways to integrate squats into your life.
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    Stay active throughout the day. Even if you don't have time to exercise on a given day, you can still help yourself rest better by staying active instead of being sedentary. For example, parking your car farther from a building and forcing yourself to walk, or taking the stairs every day can have positive effects on weight and sleep. They also use up excess energy and add to your body's need to rest at night.

Method 3
Incorporating Yoga for Better Sleep

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    Begin a light yoga routine right before you go to sleep. A yoga routine designed specifically to help you sleep may help you relax and fall asleep. The poses incorporated into the following routine have been shown to positively affect sleep cycles. Studies have also shown that yoga and Tai-Chi can increase blood circulation and lung capacity. This light exercise will allow you to release muscle tension and stress before sleeping.[10]
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    Do an upside down pose on your bed for two minutes. Align your buttocks with your headboard and put your legs in the air, on the headboard or the wall. Breathe in and out in slow deep breaths.
    • If your hamstrings are tight, move your buttocks further away from the headboard.
    • Some people are more limber, and if this pose doesn’t do it for you, scoot closer to the headboard.
    • Try to relax as you stretch the backs of your legs.
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    Sit on your bed cross-legged. Do a gentle twist, with your right shoulder moving forward and to the left. Hold for one minute and then do the opposite side.
    • Do not do this stretch if you have any chronic back problems.
    • Brace yourself by using your off-hand on the bed.
    • It’s important to look the way you are stretching to keep proper alignment.
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    Lie flat on the bed with your arms out, palms up. Bend your knees and let them fall open, with the soles of your feet against each other. If you don’t have the groin flexibility to pull this off, try putting something under each knee to minimize the angle. Rest in this position for three to five minutes.
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    Do a child's pose for about 5 minutes. In this pose, you kneel on the bed and allow your torso to flatten over your thighs and knees. Your toes should be pointed backward. Lay your arms flat over your head and breathe deeply.
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    Lie flat on your bed, criss-crossing your feet and grabbing your knees. Rock gently back and forth for one minute while breathing deeply – inhale while sitting up, exhale while going back – as you rock.
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    Extend your arms and legs and relax into your bed. Picture each part of your body relaxing and becoming part of the bed, until you drift into sleep.


  • Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.

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Categories: Better Sleeping