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Exercise and Sleep — Top 6 Exercises to Sleep Better

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Exercise and sleep — two of the most important factors for good health — are closely related. Numerous studies have shown how quality sleep improves physical and psychological well-being, bolsters immunity, and increases longevity. Exercise produces similar benefits, and helps you sleep better, too.  

How Does Exercise Impact Sleep?

Research shows that physical activity can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency) and increase sleep duration. It also boosts the time spent in deep sleep, a restorative phase crucial for memory, cell repair and regeneration, and immune system function, among other things. There is even evidence exercise can help alleviate sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. In fact, it may be just as effective as prescription medications

Quality sleep gives you the energy you need to be active the following day. Plus, it speeds up your body’s natural growth and recovery processes, enabling you to perform your best with less downtime. 

What Type of Exercise Is Best for Sleep?

The type of exercise is less important than doing it consistently, meaning at least 30 minutes five times a week. If 30 minutes seems like too much, break it up into two smaller chunks — this can be just as effective and more manageable if you have a busy schedule or are just starting out. 

Be careful with timing, though. Many experts say vigorous activity — in which your heart rate is 77% to 93% of your maximum — in the hour before bed can interfere with sleep. That’s because it increases heart rate and body temperature and causes the body to release hormones like endorphins and adrenaline, all of which can make it harder to drift off. Because of that, it’s best to reserve intense workouts for earlier in the day. As for light and moderate aerobic activity, where your heart rate is less than 77% of your maximum, studies show timing doesn’t matter as much

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  • Yoga: Yoga can improve your health in multiple ways by boosting circulation, reducing pain, and inducing relaxation, among other benefits. It is also an excellent introduction to mindfulness and meditative practices, which boast additional benefits. All this is why yoga is one of the best types of exercise to do before bed to help you sleep better.

  • Strength training: Strength training, also called resistance training, increases muscle strength and endurance. With these exercises, the muscles work against a weight or force, such as weights, bands, body weight, or gravity. Studies show resistance exercises can improve sleep quality, especially when combined with aerobic workouts.  

  • Aerobic exercise: Aerobic means “with oxygen.” Any physical activity that speeds up your breath and heart rate can be aerobic exercise. Intense exercises like running, Zumba, and cycling uphill count, but so do lighter activities like walking, water aerobics, or raking leaves. 

  • Breathing exercises: Deep breathing is proven to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, stress, and anxiety and help you relax, making this one of the best types of exercise to boost sleep quality

What Type of Exercise Is Best for Sleep?

Whether you’re seeking a resolution to sleepless nights, want to step up your physical fitness, or both, certain types of exercise can help you reach your goals.

Just 30 minutes of physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, common causes of insomnia, and improve your sleep drive. Exercising outdoors in the morning can also help regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. 

If you’d like to see how moving more during the day could help you sleep better at night, try these exercises:  


Perhaps the most accessible form of exercise, walking is also one of the best for overall well-being. You don’t need to rack up 10,000 steps to reap the benefits; even 15-20 minutes of daily walking can boost your mood, creativity, and productivity and improve heart health, immunity, and longevity. It can also help you sleep more soundly

Resistance band workout

As the name denotes, resistance bands add force without weight. And some fitness experts say they can be just as effective as free weights or machines for muscle strengthening and conditioning. These come in various styles and resistance levels. Popular resistance band exercises to try include bicep curls, squats, lateral raises, and chest presses. With any resistance or strength training, repetition is key. Ideally, you’ll want to aim to do eight to 12 repetitions two or three times. 


While any yoga can produce benefits, certain poses are better than others for relaxation. Try the following exercises before bed to help you sleep: wide-knee child’s pose (Balasana), standing forward bend (uttanasana), standing half forward bend (ardha uttanasana) at the wall, and legs up the wall (viparita karani).


Cycling, whether on a stationary bike or outdoors, can improve cardiovascular health and muscle strength, depending on the intensity. If you’re cycling in the evening, avoid hills or high resistance levels for a lighter workout.

Bodyweight exercises

Also called calisthenics, bodyweight training does not require additional equipment, like dumbbells or resistance bands, and you can do them anywhere. Instead, they use your body weight and gravity to strengthen and tone muscles. Calisthenic exercises include pushups, sit-ups, bodyweight squats, planks, and lunges. Popular workouts like Pilates and Barre also involve calisthenics.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help you go to sleep faster. There are many types to choose from, but two of the most popular and effective are 4-7-8 breathing and diaphragmatic breathing.  

The Takeaway

Invest in yourself by making the time and effort to exercise each day. Not only can it boost your health and fitness, but it can also help you sleep better at night and perform your best the following day.

Wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch take specific measures of different factors, like breath, heart rate, and body temperature, which can say a lot about your overall state of being. Combined with personalized insights from Welltory, these data can make it easy to quantify your sleep quality and how specific exercises affect your rest. 

Welltory’s personalized recommendations based on HRV analysis

When you track your sleep with Welltory, you’ll also be able to see how workout affect your sleep quality. Maybe you’ll find that a walk before bed is more beneficial than sets of squats after work. Welltory’s sleep analysis will also give you a sleep score.Your sleep score takes into account your timing, efficiency, and recovery metrics, so you can see how your sleep improves.

Welltory sleep analysis

Remember, it might take some time to experience notable results. Tracking your sleep, along with stress and energy levels before and after bed and exercise, can help you see small changes, which add up to significant improvements. 

Welltory Team, Dec 12. 2022

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