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How Exercise Improves Sleep

Natalie
Stein
July 7, 2022
How Exercise Improves Sleep
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In this article: 

  • Getting adequate sleep can help with weight control and the prevention and management of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also improve daytime energy and help prevent accidents from drowsy driving.
  • Exercise can help improve sleep quality, efficiency, duration, and more. It helps make your body tired.
  • Physical activity recommendations include getting at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity. You can also support better sleep by eating a light, early dinner and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon. 
  • Lark can help you make exercising a priority. Lark offers personalized coaching on physical activity, sleep, and other habits to help you reach your health and weight loss goals.

Do you want better sleep at night and more energy during the day? Exercise can do that for you. Here's how exercise can improve sleep and how to get the most benefits.

Importance of Sleep for Health and Function

Lack of sleep can lead to health concerns, such as hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation can cause increased hunger and cravings. It's a risk factor for depression. And it can lead to drowsiness and poor judgment during the day.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says drowsy driving leads to nearly 100,000 crashes, 50,000 injuries, and almost 800 deaths each year. Driving with sleep deprivation is similar to driving drunk.

How Exercise Improves Sleep

When you exercise, your muscles get tired. That can make you fall asleep faster. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans list more ways that regular exercise can affect sleep.

  • It improves sleep quality, which means your sleep is more restful and energizing.
  • It increases sleep efficiency, which means you can fall asleep faster and spend more time sleeping instead of lying awake during the night.
  • It decreases daytime sleepiness, which means it's easier to get through the day and do what you need to do.

You can get benefits of exercise in a single session, too. For example, the longer your exercise session during the day, the deeper your sleep may be that night.

There are more benefits of exercise for sleep. Consider these two examples. 

  • Cleveland Clinic says that exercise can reduce anxiety. That can enable you to fall asleep faster instead of lying awake worrying. 
  • Regular exercisers have better control over weight and are less likely to be obese. That's important because obesity is a major cause of a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

Exercise and Insomnia

Insomnia affects nearly 1 in 3 adults, according to a review article in Peer Journal Life and Environment. It also leads to "daytime dysfunction" in 1 in 10 adults. In this meta-analysis, participants who were assigned to exercise groups in studies saw improvements in sleep quality and a reduction in insomnia compared to participants in control groups.

A similar study in Sleep Medicineasked sedentary adults with insomnia to either remain sedentary or to start exercising for a period of 16 weeks. Both groups learned about sleep hygiene, or smart sleep practices. Participants who exercised had increased sleep quality, efficiency, and duration, and decreased daytime dysfunction, depressive symptoms, and daytime sleepiness compared to the control group.

Tips for Exercising to Improve Sleep

  • Most adults should do aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity. Recommendations are to also include muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
  • Consider working out outdoors if you can. The natural daylight can help set your body's clock to be awake during the day and ready to sleep at night.
  • For most people, it's okay to exercise in the evening. Be sure to end at least 1 hour before bedtime. If you notice that your evening workout seems to be keeping you up at night, try doing it earlier so you have more time to cool down before bedtime.
  • Support better sleep with strategies such as avoiding caffeine after noon, eating a light dinner at least a couple of hours before bedtime, and avoiding alcohol in the evening. 

Getting enough sleep can help you manage weight and lower your risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Lark can help you establish habits to get enough sleep, including exercising regularly. 

Lark offers personalized coaching designed to help you make choices that can help with weight loss or to prevent or manage diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions. The program can help you improve sleep habits by tracking your sleep and giving feedback on your sleep patterns. You can also get tips for better sleep, and insights linking sleep to health. Lark is available 24/7 through your smartphone to help you succeed.

You may be eligible to join Lark at no cost to you if your health insurer offers it as a covered benefit. Just click here to get started in finding out!

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