A Moment of Science

The Connection Between Exercise And Sleep

I've heard that getting regular exercise can help. Is this true?

dog asleep on a treadmill

Photo: normanack (Flickr)

We encourage exercising and sleep but not at the same time!

Dear A Moment of Science,
Like a lot of people, I sometimes have trouble sleeping, and I’ve heard that getting regular exercise can help. Is this true?

Get Your ZZZs

Well, maybe. Several studies looking at how exercise affects sleep do suggest that the more exercise you get, the better you sleep. But no study has actually proven this or really explained how exercise could lead to better sleep.

One theory has it that because exercise lowers levels of anxiety, stress and depression, better sleep naturally follows.

Another idea is that burning more energy through exercise enables the body to more efficiently recover during sleep, which could somehow result in better sleep.

Body Temperature

Probably the most widely accepted theory is that more exercise, which heats up the body, later helps initiate the drop in core body temperature which occurs during sleep.

But, again, none of these theories has definitely taken hold. What scientists do know is that exercise is good for you in all sorts of ways, from helping to lower body weight to relieving stress.

And scientists also know that sleep is really important. A lack of sleep can lead to irritability, anxiety, overeating, and lots of other things you want to avoid.

So whether or not exercise leads to better sleep, being active and getting enough sleep are independently healthful. If doing the one helps with the other, then all the better.

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