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Science Says You'll Sleep Better Tonight if You Do This for 30 Minutes

Aerobic exercise isn't just good for your heart, it also promotes better sleep quality.

McKenzie Dillon Writer
McKenzie, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and proclaimed mattress expert, has been writing sleep content in the wellness space for over four years. After earning her certification from the Spencer Institute and dedicating hundreds of hours to sleep research, she has extensive knowledge on the topic and how to improve your quality of rest. Having more experience with lying on mattresses than most, McKenzie has reviewed over 150 beds and a variety of different sleep products including pillows, mattress toppers and sheets. McKenzie has also been a guest on multiple radio shows including WGN Chicago as a sleep expert and contributed sleep advice to over 50 different websites.
Expertise Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach, Bachelor of English.
McKenzie Dillon
3 min read
a woman speed walking in the city

A brisk walk is a great low-impact exercise that can also help promote better sleep.

Getty Images/ David Madison

How is your relationship with sleep? Around 30 to 40% of adults in the US say they experience symptoms of insomnia, meaning poor sleep is the reality for millions of people. When you live with sleep troubles, tucking yourself into bed isn't something you look forward to. Instead, your bed symbolizes frustration and discomfort after endless tossing and turning. 

Take control of your sleep quality and give your body the rest it needs to properly function by dedicating a small part of your day to exercise. I'm not saying you need to take a hot Pilates class -- science says that even moderate exercise can help you achieve better sleep at night. 

Here's what the studies say on regular exercise and sleep, and how to make bedtime something to look forward to again with a little physical activity. 

For more help getting better sleep, here are the best yoga poses to try before bed and eight ways to get better rest.

How 30 minutes of exercise promotes better sleep

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Better sleep quality might just be a workout away. According to Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of the John Hopkins Center for Sleep, just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can help you sleep better at night. Studies show that exercising can decrease sleep latency, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and increase the time spent in deep sleep. 

Gamaldo also says it shouldn't take long to feel the effect. Many individuals reap the benefits of exercise for their sleep the same day as their workout. While experts are still exploring the possible links between sleep and regular physical activity, they have their theories. 

Endorphins 

Stress and anxiety are often major contributors to insomnia. During aerobic exercise your body releases endorphins, a hormone that promotes good feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Exercise also lowers cortisol levels, your body's stress hormone, allowing you to feel more at ease and fall asleep quicker. 

Core temperature

Our body's core temperature typically stays around 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. It drops around 1 to 2 degrees as we sleep, specifically when we enter the non-REM sleep stage. On the flip side, it increases about 1 to 2 degrees during exercise. 

After working out the body works to bring your temperature back down, a process that imitates the natural process that occurs during sleep. Your body recognizes this core temperature drop as a signal that it's bedtime and begins to wind down. 

Circadian rhythm

Every person has an internal clock called circadian rhythm that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle. When that cycle is thrown off track, you can wind up getting tired much later than usual. Your internal clock can become misaligned by:

  • Jet lag
  • Caffeine too late in the day
  • Snacking at bedtime
  • Alcohol before bed 

Exercise can help you realign your circadian rhythm and promote sleepiness so you feel more tired when bedtime rolls around. 

Read more: The Link Between Sleep and Productivity You Never Considered

Aerobic exercises to improve sleep quality

Aerobic exercises are cardiovascular workouts that increase your heart rate and breathing. Here are a few aerobic exercises you can try to promote better rest. 

Looking for more sleep advice? Learn how to fall asleep in 10 minutes or less and how you can use GABA as a supplement for sleep.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.