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Insomnia and Exercise

Written by sshowalter, maria_rn, ColleenO.

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People who exercise regularly generally have fewer episodes of insomnia. Exercise promotes physical and mental health in numerous ways.

Effect of Exercise on Insomnia

Exercise may counteract symptoms of insomnia because it improves the quality of sleep. It allows for smoother and more regular transition between cycles and phases of sleep.

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Research Evidence on Exercise

Research suggests that exercise may improve the sleep quality of adults. A study published in Journals of Gerontology shows that a moderate-intensity exercise program can improve sleep in older adults. For this study, researchers at Stanford University recruited sedentary adults, aged 55 or older, that were free of heart disease. The subjects had mild to moderate chronic sleep complaints. They were randomly assigned to a 12-month program of modrate-intensity endurance exercise or a health education program. The outcome was measured using polysomnographic sleep recordings, with additional measures of subjective sleep quality, physical activity, and physical fitness. Results show that the participants who were in the exercise program experienced greater improvements than the control group.

How to Use Exercise

Moderate exercises lasting 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a week will give you more energy while helping you sleep better at night. Exercises should be done in the morning or afternoon, not close to bedtime.

It is important to pick a type of exercise and durations that are compatible with your physical health. If you have a serious health condition, consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.

A health condition or injury may prevent you from engaging in certain types of exercise such as jogging or bike riding but walking. Gentler forms of movement such as stretching or yoga may still be safe and beneficial options.


King, Abby C., Pruitt, Leslie A., Woo, Sandra, Castro, Cynthia M., Ahn, David K., Vitiello, Michael V., Woodward, Steven H., Bliwise, Donald L., Effects of Moderate-Intensity Exercise on Polysomnographic and Subjective Sleep Quality in Older Adults With Mild to Moderate Sleep Complaints, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2008 63: 997-1004

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