Swellness Blog


Connection Between Sleep and Exercise

wellness Feb 26, 2024
connection between sleep and exercise

 Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Exercise is essential for overall mental and physical health. Even something as simple as walking can improve your mood and help you feel more energized while reducing anxiety and decreasing your risk of conditions like diabetes. But did you know that physical activity can improve sleep, and sleep can improve physical activity? Of course, several factors impact how mutually beneficial exercise and sleep can be, including how, how often, and when you exercise. 

Apart from exercise, everyone needs quality sleep. You’ll feel less motivated to work out the next day without it. Since rest is necessary for helping your body recover, getting enough quality sleep after a workout can strengthen your muscles and help you avoid fatigue. Meanwhile, poor sleep can lead to lower activity levels the next day, reducing the effectiveness of your workouts. 

Exercise Helps You Sleep Better

Better sleep helps your running and workout performance, and better exercise allows you to get better sleep. The link between exercise and sleep is clear, with most studies concluding that some types of physical activity can improve sleep quality. But, unfortunately, some forms can decrease sleep quality, preventing you from getting enough rest. 

Moderate exercise over several weeks can help you sleep better and longer. However, vigorous exercise can decrease sleep duration for some people because it gives them a boost of energy. Therefore, regular, daily movement can help adults get better sleep. At the same time, acute or sporadic activity can keep you up later at night or wake you earlier in the morning, so you must get your body and mind adjusted to an exercise schedule. 

Of course, everyone’s exercise needs are different; some individuals with sleep disorders need less cardio and more stretching before bed. Meanwhile, others should consider when they exercise because physical activity too late at night has been known to keep some people awake later. 

Photo by KoolShooters 

Does When You Exercise Matter for Sleep?

The time of your workout can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. For example, many people prefer aerobic exercises earlier in the day to improve sleep quality the following night. Meanwhile, those who work out at night can disrupt their sleep schedule because of the runner’s high or energy boost they may feel afterward. 

Avoid vigorous exercise at least three hours before bed because working out too late can raise your body temperature and affect your ability to fall asleep. Instead, try a walk around the block, yoga, or stretching to help relax the body and mind before bed. 

Better Sleep Improves Workout Performance

Physical activity can improve sleep quality, but better sleep can motivate you to work out the next day or engage in more vigorous physical activity. The more rested you are, the better your mind and body will function, including at the gym. Getting enough sleep every night can motivate you to work out the following day. It also positively impacts concentration, mood, and focus, which can decrease stress and your likelihood of burnout at work. This can improve your workout and increase your desire to engage in physical activity. 

Not getting enough quality sleep can affect your ability to exercise. While lack of sleep won’t affect your body’s response to exercise or your capability, it can make it tougher to work out, especially for prolonged periods. In addition, when you don’t get enough sleep before a workout, you’ll feel tired faster, making it challenging to get the full benefits of your exercise. Overall, you’ll have less endurance because the activity will feel difficult. 

Types of Exercises For Better Sleep

If you want to fall asleep faster after hitting the mattress at night, consider the types of exercises you do during the day. Regular aerobic exercise is essential for quality sleep and reducing daytime sleepiness. Aim for moderately intense exercises that increase your heart rate, such as running or walking. 

Apart from aerobic exercises, resistance training and stretching are proven to help with sleep quality and quantity. One way to combine all three is to try yoga before bed to help you manage stress and improve mood. 

Choosing Between Exercise and More Sleep

We’re limited in the time we have in a single day. When you can sleep for 8 hours without exercising or sleep for six or seven hours and wake up early to go to the gym, it can be challenging to decide which is right for you. Still, sleep should always be the priority because it can affect your ability to concentrate during the day, which can be especially important if you have to go to work or take care of your children. 

If you can get seven to eight hours of sleep the night before, try to wake up to go to the gym or exercise at home. However, if you’re only sleeping a few hours a night, consider making sleep your priority and finding time to exercise later in the day. 

Other Factors to Consider

While exercise and sleep have a mutually beneficial relationship, everyone is different. Genetics and energy levels can affect your exercise and sleep quality. How much exercise you need may depend on your circadian rhythm, which controls when you sleep. Some people are early birds while others are night owls, and when they have enough energy to work out varies. A morning person may have more energy within the first few hours of waking up, but a night person has more energy later in the day. 

Once you understand how your energy levels fluctuate throughout the day and how your circadian rhythm affects these energy levels, you can ensure you exercise when you have the most energy.

Improve Your Sleep & Exercise Performance

Physical activity improves your sleep quality, and better sleep makes you more motivated to work out the following day. Therefore, it’s up to you to find the proper schedule to ensure enough time for an entire night’s sleep and physical activity.  Always consider your personal preferences and track your sleep quality to ensure exercising too close to bed doesn't affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

About the Author

Megan Isola holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and a minor in Business Marketing from Cal State University Chico. She enjoys going to concerts, trying new restaurants, and hanging out with friends.