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Should I Exercise to Help me Sleep?

Exercise is often touted as one of the best ways of helping people get to sleep. This advice seems obvious as exercise tires you out and being tired is, obviously, a key component in falling asleep, but is it necessarily true?


Should I Exercise to Help me Sleep?

If you are struggling to sleep one of the more common pieces of advice people will give is that you should exercise. On the surface, this seems like a fairly obvious and uncontentious recommendation, exercising makes you tired and being tired leads to falling asleep. However the relationship between sleep and exercise is far more complicated than it may appear and acting on this advice without looking into it can actually have negative consequences for both the quality of sleep and the efficacy of exercise.

The reality is that exercising during the day will help you sleep at night but exercising during the night, when many people do, actually makes falling asleep more difficult which can have negative consequences on sleep quality.

Exercise has a number of effects on the body. Unfortunately two of which are totally incompatible with sleep. When you exercise your body temperature rises and there is an increase in serotonin. These two effects of exercise both stimulate the body, making sleep more difficult. If you want to fall asleep then it is important that your body is relaxed and your temperature is relatively cool. It takes at least 3 to 4 hours for the body to cool down and the serotonin levels to drop after you have exercised, which is why it is best to exercise during the day.

However, there is more to the problem than this. If you are working out at night then you are not only compromising your sleep, you are also potentially lessening the positive effects of the exercise. This is because sleep is a vital period of rejuvenation for the body and if you are not sleeping as well as you could be because of exercise then you are limiting the potential benefits. It will take longer for your body to recover from a workout and it will take longer for your general fitness to improve. Even a few nights of compromised sleep can have a number of physical and mental consequences, including irritation, depression, memory loss, exhaustion and decreased motor skills. These problems will only compound the longer it goes on.

It is vital that people understand that there is a right time and a wrong time to exercise as it can have wide ranging physical and psychological consequences. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Make sure that you exercise at least 3-4 hours before bed as otherwise you could make falling asleep more difficult and you could compromise the quality of your sleep.
  • Do not exercise if you have had a bad sleep the night before as your body will be less resilient.
  • Make sure that you cool down before you go to bed.

Doing exercise during the day is a great way of making yourself tired, but don’t exercise too close to bed time as it may compromise your sleep.

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