Sleep trick: Ideal time of day to exercise for better sleep quality

·3-min read

When it comes to exercise, are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you love to get up while the birds are singing and go for a swim as the lorikeets serenade you?

Or are you more used to pounding the pavement as the chatter of flying foxes whirs overhead? Well, as it turns out, when you choose to exercise can actually have an impact on your sleep quality.

Healthy serene young african american girl sleeping well in comfortable cozy fresh bed on soft pillow white linen orthopedic mattress, calm sleepy black woman enjoy peaceful sleep at home, top view
When you choose to exercise can actually have an impact on your sleep quality. Photo: Getty

How the time of day you exercise affects sleep

Sleep expert Elina Winnel says exercising at any time of the day helps, but not within two hours of going to bed.

“This allows your body temperature and heart rate sufficient time to drop back to normal prior to sleep,” the Emma Sleep ambassador tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Ideally, morning exercise will set you up for a good day, which in turn will help your sleep even more. Happier people sleep better.”


Work with your body clock

Likewise, sleep expert Dr Carmel Harrington says to work with your body clock when it comes to a sleep and exercise routine.

“The best way we can align our body clock to produce a healthy sleep routine is to wake up at the same time daily, and ensure we’re getting plenty of exercise throughout the day,” Dr Harrington, In Essence ambassador, tells us.

“Exercise helps us sleep, but exercising after about 7pm at night can be counterproductive, as this can significantly affect our ability to get to and stay asleep, as it effectively delays our body clock.

“Our peak cardiovascular strength is actually around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, so it’s actually best to book your workout then to support our natural biological rhythms.”

How exercise helps sleep

“Exercise breaks down our muscles, encouraging our body to drop into a deeper sleep at night to repair and rebuild our bodies,” Elina explains.

“Exercising outdoors, with exposure to natural light, also helps to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.”

exercising for the brain
Excerise has a big impact on our sleep quality. Photo: Getty

Dr Harrington adds that how we sleep also depends on how we spend our day.

There are numerous tips to include in our everyday routine.

“Going for a walk at lunch time to get at least 20 minutes of light movement is essential in preparing the body and mind for sleep,” Dr Harrington said.

Other essential factors include “no caffeine after midday, no day-time naps (a nap of 20 minutes is okay) and no large meals within three hours of bedtime”.

What exercise is best for sleep

Elina says the best exercise differs from person to person.

“Weight-bearing exercises can help put us into a deeper sleep at night, but moderate exercise, such as yoga or walking, helps to calm and soothe our nervous system, making sleep easier to achieve,” she said.

small group of runners in urban invironment, evening training
Moderate exercise, such as yoga or walking, helps to calm and soothe the nervous system. Photo: Getty

More tips for great sleep

“To prepare the mind, turning off all technology, dimming the lights, a warm shower and relaxation techniques including aromatherapy, can help prepare us for a restful night’s sleep,” Dr Harrington adds.

“Australian aromatherapy brand In Essence has an excellent range of essential blends that promote better sleep, tranquility, reduce anxiety and symptoms of stress."

Meanwhile, Elina says it helps to remain cool - especially as the humid nights continue.

Invest in a mattress that regulates your temperature so you don’t overheat, as it helps put you in a deeper sleep,” she says.

“If you sleep with a partner, pets or kids that disrupt your sleep, I recommend a mattress that has zero-partner-disturbance technology.

“Also work on reducing your stress or anxiety levels by establishing daily practices that relax and calm your nervous system, such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation.”

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