It would make sense… You work out aggressively and then are worn out later that night and so you sleep great. However, is it true? Does exercise make you sleep better?
As it turns out the short-term impact of exercise (how it makes you sleep that night) is positive, but minor. One meta analysis found that exercise had no effect on wakefulness during the night but reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increase total sleep time by 10 minutes. Here’s the full results:
What about people suffering from insomnia? Another study had sedentary participants who were suffering from insomnia either continue to be inactive or exercise for 30- 40 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week on a treadmill or stationary bike. The researchers found that exercising didn’t predict better sleep that night.
But, what’s the long-term impact of exercise on sleep? Over time, exercise increases total sleep time, reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and reduces wakefulness during the night. Here are the full results:
When it comes to patients suffering from insomnia, the researchers found that the patients slept longer (1.25 hours more), fell asleep faster, experienced higher quality sleep, and had less depression symptoms, less sleepiness and more vitality during the day after 4 months of exercise.
Exercise will improve your sleep, but it can take time. When it comes to timing, the meta analysis found that participants went to sleep faster and woke less in the middle of the night if exercise was done 4 to 8 hours before bedtime. But, exercising at any time of day should improve your future sleep. So keep up the exercise!
Baron, Kelly Glazer, Kathryn J. Reid, and Phyllis C. Zee. “Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 9.8 (2013): 819.
Kubitz, Karla A., et al. “The effects of acute and chronic exercise on sleep.”Sports Medicine 21.4 (1996): 277-291.
Reid, Kathryn J., et al. “Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia.” Sleep medicine 11.9 (2010): 934-940.