Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that causes a person to have low quality sleep. Research suggests regular exercise can help a person with insomnia have better quality sleep.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep or stay asleep.

In this article, we discuss whether exercise can help with insomnia. We also discuss the effects of the timing and intensity of exercise on sleep.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Some scientific research suggests exercise may help with insomnia.

For example, a 2022 scientific review looked at six studies on how exercise can affect insomnia. These studies involved 295 participants.

The review suggested that physical exercise improved sleep quality and reduced the severity of insomnia in study participants.

Another review from 2018 looked at nine studies with a total of 557 participants. This review also concluded that exercise can improve sleep quality without causing adverse effects.

A 2021 meta-analysis of research into exercise and insomnia assessed the effects of different regular exercises on sleep quality.

The analysis looked at aerobic exercise compared with mind-body exercise. Aerobic exercise aims to improve how the body uses oxygen. And mind-body exercise combines exercise with breathing control and different forms of meditation.

The authors concluded that both physical and mind-body exercise interventions resulted in the same extent of sleep quality improvements. This suggests that a person can try either type of exercise to help improve their sleep.

Physical aerobic exercises that may help improve sleep include:

Mind-body exercises use gentle exercise alongside coordination of the body. One example is yoga.

One 2022 study assessed the effectiveness of yoga for improvement of sleep quality in people with insomnia. It concluded that yoga may be an effective treatment for insomnia symptoms. However, this topic requires more research.

Read some tips for sleeping better.

Some people believe that exercising too late in the day can disrupt a person’s sleep. However, research suggests this may not be the case.

A 2020 study looked at the effect of exercise on sleep in 12 male participants. The participants each carried out either 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, 30 minutes of moderate resistance training, or no exercise.

Each workout ended 90 minutes before the participants went to sleep. The study concluded that moderate-intensity evening workouts did not affect the participants’ sleep.

In another 2020 study, 16 participants each finished moderate workouts at different times, including 2 or 4 hours before they went to sleep. The study also concluded that exercising later in the day did not disturb the participants’ sleep.

A 2019 review looked at 23 studies on evening exercise and sleep. Researchers concluded that evening workouts might help improve a person’s sleep. The researchers added that this would be the case if a person did exercise of a moderate (not vigorous) intensity and ended more than 1 hour before a person went to sleep.

There is no evidence that exercise can cause insomnia.

Some individuals claim that high intensity exercise close to bedtime can negatively affect sleep. However, some studies suggest the opposite.

One 2021 study stated that high intensity exercise 2–4 hours before bedtime does not disrupt nighttime sleep.

A 2020 study analyzed the effect of high intensity exercise in the evening on sleep in endurance runners. It concluded that high intensity exercise in the early evening does not disrupt nighttime sleep. In fact, it added that this exercise might even improve nighttime sleep in these individuals.

Here are some frequently asked questions about exercise and insomnia.

Does a person need less sleep if they are physically fit?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need at least 7 hours of sleep in every 24-hour period.

There is little research into the amount of sleep people who are physically fit need. Physical fitness may also mean different things to different people. Factors include cardiac health, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.

One 2021 study asked 175 elite athletes how many hours of sleep they require in order to feel rested. Their answers suggested they needed an average of 8.3 hours.

However, these self-reported results come from a small sample size. This means more research is required to determine whether people who are physically fit require more or less sleep than the general population.

Learn about how much sleep a person may need.

Can high intensity exercise affect sleep?

Studies show that high intensity exercise may improve sleep quality.

A 2021 review examined the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT) on sleep in adults. The review concluded that HIIT was a promising option for the treatment of sleep disorders, and that HIIT may cause a significant increase in sleep quality.

Another 2020 study looked at the effect of high intensity training in the evening on sleep in a group of endurance runners. It concluded that if a person performs high intensity training in the early evening, it should not disrupt their sleep. The study added that this training might even help improve nighttime sleep.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. It can make it difficult for a person to fall asleep or stay asleep. Studies suggest that exercise may help improve sleep in people with insomnia.

People may wish to try physical aerobic exercises to help improve their sleep quality. These exercises include walking, running, swimming, and cycling.

Mind-body exercises, such as yoga, may also be effective at helping improve sleep quality.