Exercises to Treat or Reduce Insomnia That Can Help You Fall Asleep Faster

Improve the quality of your sleep (and your overall health) with these exercises.

By Rachel Bowman
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What Time of Day You Should Exercise for Better Sleep (2:38)

You stare up into the darkness, blinking in time with ticks of your wall clock, but no matter how much you try and convince yourself to sleep, you just can’t seem to drift off. Restless and inconsistent sleep can make you less productive during the day, lead you to make poor food choices, and even cause you to zone out during your 3 p.m. meeting. If you have problems falling and staying asleep, there might be an easy solution you haven’t tried yet – exercise. Exercising to treat insomnia makes a lot of sense when you think about it; if you’re exerting your body in healthy ways during the day, your body will naturally crave more sleep when nighttime rolls around.

When your day is packed, exercise might seem like the last thing you want to try and squeeze into your busy schedule, but if exhaustion is making it harder to get things done throughout the day, it might be worth finding the time to work out for the sake of good sleep. These workouts can not only help you catch some zzz’s but can also improve your overall health. No matter what your skill level or fitness goals, there are sleep exercises for everyone. Try out these simple exercises today to improve your quality of sleep.

Incorporate Cardio

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a cardio workout can help you sleep – especially if you work out in the morning. Early morning workouts help lower your blood pressure (which is helpful for better sleep!) throughout the day, leaving it in a comfortable range when it’s time for bed.

If the thought of waking up early is already making you groan, don’t worry; working out at any time of the day could still be helpful. For instance, working out at night may also help you sleep. When you exercise, your body temperature increases but after an intense sweat session, your body will start to cool down – which will help you feel sleepy. The National Sleep Foundation likens this effect to that of a warm bath: “Just like your body cools off post-bath, making you feel sleepy, a post-workout cooling may also help to set the stage for sleep.” When deciding when to incorporate cardio into your day, try different times of the day and see which one works best for you.

Add Strength Training

Not only can strength training improve muscle tone and help you maintain a healthy weight but lifting weights may actually help you sleep better. A 2015 study from The Journal of Strength and Conditions Research, found that college students who did strength-based exercises had an overall better quality of sleep. Similar to cardio, strength training may help shorten the time it takes you to fall asleep and decrease tossing and turning at night.

The study found that lifting weights any time of day might contribute to better sleep quality. For the ultimate one-two punch, combine strength training with cardio for a workout that will surely help you catch some zzz’s. A combo routine like that is not only beneficial for your sleep but is also an effective way to achieve weight loss goals you may have set for yourself.

Try Yoga

Yoga is a useful exercise to help people unwind and it has also been found to promote restful sleep. A study published in JAMA in 2015, found that yoga was a helpful tool to treat insomnia. The study specifically looked at older males, however, the hypothesis might be able to extend to all age groups. Yoga is a known tool to deal with stress management. The combination of poses, breathing techniques, and mediation can help ease body pains and calm your mind. And when you are calm and less stressed, odds are you’ll be able to sleep better. Practicing yoga techniques can signal to your brain that it’s time to rest and can also help distract you from anxieties that may be keeping you up.

You might want to consider trying out yoga nidra, which is a form of guided meditation that may help you sleep. The idea behind yoga nidra is to enter the same subconscious state you enter when you fall asleep, without actually being asleep. You are still fully aware, your body and mind are just completely at ease. It takes a lot of practice to reach this state, so don’t be frustrated if the fix isn’t immediate.

Using exercise as a way to fall asleep only adds more benefits to getting your heart pumping. You can feel accomplished knowing that you not only improved your overall physical health but you also took active steps to make sure your body and mind could let go at night. Another helpful sleep hack is to spend 20 minutes before bed (outside of the bedroom) and write down everything you have to do for the next day. That way, once you hit the pillow you don’t feel like you need to go through this list again. Whatever steps you take, make sure to be kind to yourself and to not get frustrated along the way. Like anything else, you will have to train your body to fall asleep so it might take a week of consistency before you see any results.

Related: 

5 Easy Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

How to Develop a Healthy Sleep Routine

The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Sleep

Article written by Rachel Bowman