It’s important to get the sleep you need in order to help you stay energized. The renewed stamina keeps you feeling great throughout the day and leads to more successful workouts. However, new studies are showing that it’s not just a one-way street; while sleep helps you exercise, exercise also improves the quality of your sleep.

It may seem a little bit uncommon to think of better sleep through exercise rather than vice-versa, but getting quality rest is absolutely vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As studies have shown, sleep deprivation can be worse for your academic and work performance than drinking or smoking marijuana.

Exercise and sleep

Studies have found a connection between aerobic exercise and improvements in the quality of sleep for both men and women. In one eight-week study of middle-aged women, researchers found that by instituting an aerobics routine into a schedule that had previously lacked regular exercise, subjects experienced sleep quality improvements across the board.

The study concluded that aerobic exercise can increase the quality of sleep “significantly.”

The study found that aerobic exercise:

  • reduced sleep duration by 32% (They didn’t need as much sleep to be rested.)
  • reduced sleep disturbance by 22% (They slept more soundly.)
  • reduced sleep latency by 14% (Participants fell asleep faster.)
  • improved sleep efficiency by 36% (They were better-rested on less sleep, i.e., better bang for their buck.)

Another study focused on men found similar results. This study measured older men with insomnia and found that not only was sleep quality improved, so was the overall mood of the participants, as subjects reported less depressive symptoms and increased vitality.

Both studies build off of work done at Northwestern University in a study that found middle-aged participants all had significant improvements in their sleep quality thanks to exercise.

By using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, in which a higher number means poorer sleep quality, researchers found that exercise reduced the index score of participants by 4.8 (practicing tai chi, for example, only lowered scores by 1.8).

Sleep and aging

As you may have noticed, the sleep studies all involved middle-aged subjects. That’s because as we age, we are more likely to have difficulty getting enough quality sleep. Insomnia and other sleep disorders become more prevalent with each passing year.

Aerobic exercise is good for everyone, but its benefits can be especially useful if you have trouble sleeping already.

According to Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Medicine and senior author of the study, “Around middle age, sleep begins to change dramatically. It is essential that we identify behavioral ways to improve sleep. Now we have promising results showing aerobic exercise is a simple strategy to help people sleep better and feel more vigorous.”

Easy aerobic exercises

Sounds like aerobic exercise is a pretty good idea, huh? It’s also one of the most convenient types of exercise available, as you don’t necessarily need any equipment to do it. Here’s a list of plenty of aerobic exercises (with and without equipment) you can do without much trouble:

  • Taking a brisk walk
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Stair climbing
  • Cycling
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Rowing
  • Step aerobics
  • and there are many more

Aerobics helps more than just sleep

While aerobic exercise’s benefit to sleep may be relatively new, it has long been known to have numerous other advantages. Aerobic exercise:

  • Increases lifespan
  • Helps manage chronic ailments
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and other diseases
  • Improves Insulin Efficiency
  • Improves how well your lungs work

Whether you are suffering from poor quality sleep or not, it’s easy to see why aerobic exercise is an important part of a healthy, energetic and long life.

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