Alaska Sleep Education Center

The Role of Exercise in Stress Management and Sleep Improvement

Posted by Mary Thibault on Aug 20, 2021 1:32:00 AM

Full length of instructor with fitness class performing step aerobics exercise in gym.

Every day, one thing or the other causes us to stress ourselves. Stress occurs when a person is in a state of disharmony because of a real or perceived challenge. Situations that cause the body to stress itself are called Stressors.

Whether positive or negative, the body has its natural way of responding to stress. For most people, they give either of the fight or flight responses. There are a lot of things that can make a person stressed and to state the fact, it is impossible to avoid being stressed.

This is because we see different people with different energy, we face challenges at work, problems at home, and even if you decide to be alone, your worries are enough to make you stressed. This means that we can either choose to sit down, do nothing about our stress, and stress-eat or we can get up and deal with it. The choice is yours.

There are several ways to get rid of stress which include staying positive, meditating, and exercising. Exercise is a great way to manage stress and this article explains the roles that exercise plays in managing our stress.


  1. It increases the production of Endorphins: When we are stressed, the heart and respiration rates increase. Our blood pressure and energy levels also increase, and this is followed by a decrease in the secretion of endorphin - the hormone that reduces pain and makes us feel happy. However, it has been discovered that engaging in physical activities can help the production of endorphins and there is no other way to engage yourself in physical activities than to perform exercises. Activities like running, and swimming, that allow you to flex your muscles can help produce more endorphins. Taking a walk can also be all that you need.

  2.  It triggers sleep and makes you feel better: One way to run away from stress is to fall asleep. However, when you are stressed, you find it hard to close your eyes or sleep. If you manage to sleep, you might not have a sound sleep. Workouts like banded leg exercises are a great way to force your body to get fatigued and break down. When you wake up from sleep after being stressed, you feel much better than you were before you slept. Exercise helps to shed off stress and when you are less stressed, you will be able to sleep better. Waking up from sleep stress-free will make you feel relaxed, put you in a better mood, and also enhance your self-esteem.
  3. It helps to keep the brain active: When you exercise, your body releases Norepinephrine and Endorphin hormones which make you happy and help you stay away from anxiety. These hormones are very helpful in starting your day. If you have a small gym in your house, you can visit the gym to do some morning exercise and kick-start yourself for a great day. Exercise causes your brain to produce chemicals that fight stress and boost your cardiovascular activities. 
  4. It prepares you for the effects of stress: As it was mentioned earlier, when people are stressed, the body initiates a fight or flight response. When you exercise regularly, the body simulates these responses and prepares itself to overcome stress. Hence, if you become stressed while going about your daily activities, exercise provides a defense mechanism for your body and helps you easily overcome stress. You may not know but being stressed affects your digestive and immune system and exercising will help you protect the vital organs that make up these systems.
  5. It allows you to focus on your body: Have you noticed that when you perform an exercise, you are conscious of the movement of your body. Your mind is clear and you are happy that you are fit. Exercise helps to focus on better things than stress. It makes you optimistic and you will possess positive energy.

When you are stressed, your heart begins to work faster than normal which is why people suffer heart attacks when they are stressed. You can avoid this by performing regular exercise. Exercise makes your body well-coordinated and makes your system function properly. Remember that it is impossible to avoid stress but you can prepare your body to overcome any stress that you encounter. Exercise and sleep are all that you need. That's a hard thing to do, is it?

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 the 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: alaska sleep clinic, insomnia, sleep apnea, exercise, getting beter sleep

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