For the many people who don’t feel refreshed after sleeping, exercise could be the solution. A recent study by the National Sleep Foundation found that exercisers report better sleep than non-exercisers even though they say they sleep the same amount each night (6 hours and 51 minutes on average during weeknights). Exercisers are significantly more likely to say “I had a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers – with vigorous exercisers reporting it most frequently, as well as saying they rarely or never have insomnia, wake up too early and are unable to get back to sleep. Also, more than three-fourths of exercisers say their sleep quality was very good or fairly good in the past two weeks, compared to slightly more than one-half of non-exercisers.
Regardless of when you exercise, it seems to be better for sleep than no exercise at all. This contradicts long-standing “sleep hygiene” tips that advise against exercising close to bedtime.
Spending less time sitting may improve sleep quality and health. Those who sit for less than eight hours per day are significantly more likely to say they have “very good” sleep quality than those who sit for eight hours or more.
In addition to exercise, experts suggest that to improve your sleep you should follow these tips:
Create an environment conducive to sleep, one that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day.
If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.