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Exercise Gives a Big Boost to Sleep

We all know exercise is good for us. Good for our health, good for our waistlines, good for stress and for our clarity of mind. Exercise is also very—very—good for sleep. Research has shown that exercise can improve sleep, including for people with sleep disorders and other sleep-related illnesses. And now there’s even more evidence of the sleep benefits that can come with regular physical activity.

The National Sleep Foundation devoted its annual Sleep in America poll to exploring the relationship between exercise and sleep. Their results found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who do not. People who exercise are also significantly less likely to feel sleepy during the day, and to experience symptoms of sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.And the news gets better: while more vigorous exercise is best, people participating in light exercise—as little as 10 minutes of walking a day—reported substantially better sleep than non-exercisers

The message here is clear: put some time every day toward exercise, and when bedtime comes around you’ll sleep better. For those trying to juggle a regular exercise routine amid busy schedules, there’s some more good news in these poll results. The survey found that exercise at any time of day was good for sleep, including within 4 hours of bedtime. It’s been a common recommendation—including from the National Sleep Foundation itself—to avoid exercise during the final 4 hours of the waking day, in order to prevent physical exertion from interfering with sleep. Based on these results, the NSF has revised its recommendation, and encourages normal sleepers to exercise at any time of day, provided that their exercise does not interfere with their sleep. People with insomnia and other sleep disorders should continue to schedule their exercise earlier in the day. And anyone who finds their sleep diminished by late-day exercise should do the same.