Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Can Working On Your Fitness Promote Better Sleep?

Posted by Jane Sandwood on Jul 12, 2021 1:08:00 AM

Muscular couple discussing their workout.

Over 15% of adults in the U.S. have high levels of activity, reports the CDC, meaning they do not participate in physical activities such as running, walking, or gardening. In some areas (for instance, the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West), physical activity rates are higher (ranging from 28% to 20.5%).

The vast majority of people have sedentary (sit-down) jobs and this, combined with little activity in their leisure time, has significantly upped the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and strokes. Inactivity also affects your ability to get a good night’s rest, so if your sleep quantity or quality is suffering, fixing the issue could be as simple as enjoying a regular workout comprising both cardiovascular and strength exercises.

Cardiovascular Exercise Promotes Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by promoting inflammation (R Vallat et al, 2020), but poor cardiovascular fitness can also affect your sleep. 

As reported by Hopkins Medicine, people who take part in 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can experience better sleep quality that same night. Recent research has shown that exercise not only improves sleep among generally unproblematic sleepers but also decreases sleep complaints and insomnia. The effect of exercise, say, scientists, is similar in boosting sleepiness as that of sleeping pills, but without the side effects, and with a host of additional benefits.

Strength Training And Sleep

Strength training is usually recommended alongside cardiovascular training because of its ability to build muscle mass, sculpt limbs, and promote good bone health. However, a study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that participants who performed strength-based workouts (including leg presses, curls, and crunches) fell asleep 45 minutes faster than those who did not lift weights. Researchers believe that this is because strength exercises warm up the body and have a similar relaxing effect to that caused by a relaxing bath

Giving Fitness The Importance It Deserves

If you're inactive, changing your habits can be hard - especially when it comes to working on your fitness level. However, there are many ways to motivate yourself to exercise regularly - including scheduling your workout as you would any other appointment, finding a gym close by or investing in at-home equipment, and setting realistic goals.

You should also work on making exercise more fun. This can be achieved by working out with friends: one 2017 study by the American Osteopathic Association found that people who exercised in a group enjoyed significant mental, physical, and emotional benefits. They also reported a 26.2% reduction in stress and worked out for twice as long.

When To Exercise

With many adults only having the late afternoon or evening to exercise, you may be wondering whether exercise at this time will ruin sleep. The good news is that any time is a good time when it comes to honing your fitness, as shown in research conducted at Charles Sturt University in Australia.

The study showed that evening exercise does not have a detrimental impact on subsequent sleep. Moreover, high-intensity exercise completed in the afternoon/evening is linked to greater reductions of ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates hunger) so exercise at this time is a great idea if you are trying to shed unwanted pounds.

Fitness and sleep are linked, with exercise promoting a more restful evening. When formulating your workout, make sure to include both cardiovascular exercise and strength exercises, since both are beneficial. To motivate yourself, set a schedule, exercise in a group setting and exercise outdoors if you can since research indicates that it's more fun and burns more calories.


Now that you’ve learned about the relationship between exercise and sleep, you can plan ahead to make sure you are maximizing the benefits that your fitness routine can have on your sleep habits.

Choose more intense forms of exercise, like HIIT, CrossFit, and bodybuilding, earlier in the day to energize you and reset your sleep/wake cycle. These more vigorous activities also help you feel tired later in the day to make it easier to nod off at bedtime.

Soothing exercises like yoga, pilates, and barre can help you relax after work and are great choices for nighttime workouts. Regardless of when you workout, a comfortable mattress, the right sleep environment, and relaxing bedtime rituals will help you wind down and get the great night’s sleep you need to support your active lifestyle. 

Exercise can significantly improve not only your quality of sleep but the time it takes to actually fall asleep – without drugs. A 2010 study at Northwestern University showed that people who exercised regularly and brought their heart rates up to 75% max slept better and had more energy during the day compared to people who did not exercise but exerted themselves mentally (ie, through cooking classes or listening to a lecture).

If you are suffering from insomnia and want to see if a physical activity will help, exercise earlier in the day; there is evidence that getting your heart rate revved up just before bedtime might keep you awake.

As always, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic for any of your sleep concerns. Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most experienced sleep lab in Alaska with Telemedicine. We remain open to take care of your CPAP needs and can mail all supplies directly to your home. Your safety AND sleep health remain our top priorities.

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Topics: insomnia, exercise, fitness

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