Good sleep quality and regular physical activity are fundamental to good health and wellbeing. However, the prevalence of sleep loss and lack of exercise is increasing, often traded off in modern life for social and work demands.
WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT – SLEEP OR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?
Regular physical activity has been shown to be an effective, non-chemical approach to improving sleep and is recommended as a complementary approach to therapies for sleep problems. However, it is important to note evidence of the two-way relationship, that is, exercise (or being physically active) can help you sleep better and getting adequate sleep can promote healthier physical activity levels during the day – so we need to do both to optimise our health.
TYPE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TO BENEFIT SLEEP?
Participation in any regular physical activity is better than none. However, studies have shown that those who participate in recommended levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (e.g. ‘walking briskly’ levels) are more likely to:
- sleep more than 6 hrs a night
- experience good to excellent sleep quality
- fall and stay asleep more easily
- not be diagnosed with sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome.
EXERCISE IN THE MORNING OR THE NIGHT?
Some people are early risers and enjoy exercising in the morning. For others, the thought of getting up and exercising is just too much. The question often asked is ‘will my sleep quality change if I exercise in the morning or night?’. The answer is no. There is no strong evidence available that exercising in the morning is better compared to night, just as long as you are active throughout the day and not vigorously exercising too close to bedtime.