Do you have difficulty falling asleep?

Do you wake frequently during the night?

Do you have trouble getting back to sleep once you have woken?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may have insomnia, or difficulty sleeping.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 30-40 % of people have insomnia. While there is no magic number and the amount of sleep varies for everybody, it is suggested that healthy adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. While you are asleep, your body is recharging and rejuvenating for the next day.  Without that rest, those sleep disturbances can lead to stress and irritability throughout the day, difficulty concentrating and a lack of interest in activities.

Lack of sleep is also a contributor to weight gain. A lack of sleep can trigger the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and an increase of insulin production, which promotes fat storage and is associated with weight gain. Lack of sleep can also reduce levels of leptin which is the hormone that allows you to feel satiated and raise levels of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. The altering of levels result in cravings for sweet foods and overeating and can increase your daily caloric intake by 300 calories.

In addition, sleep problems can be directly related to exercise.

In 2013, The National Sleep Foundation published a survey called Sleep In America®, which showed a major association between sleep and exercise.  The study found that sleep doesn’t necessarily improve exercise, but that exercise improves sleep. (1) The study goes on to say that exercisers reported better sleep than non- exercisers.  This was true even though they may have been getting the same amount of sleep, the quality of sleep in the exercisers was much greater. Vigorous exercisers not only reported better sleep, but also less likely to report problems like difficulty of falling and staying asleep.

As for the non exercisers in the group, the study found that these individuals were sleepier during the day and that interfered with daily activities including social events, thinking clearly at work and staying awake while driving. In addition, those who did not exercise showed more symptoms of sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder that leads individuals to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. Besides sleep apnea interfering with a good night’s sleep, it can lead to serious health complications such as stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea is often associated with people who are overweight – weight gain leads to compromised respiratory function when an individual’s trunk and neck area increase from weight gain.(2)

When you have sleep apnea:

  • You may be less motivated to diet or exercise when your sleepiness lowers your energy levels.
  • Sleep deprivation may inhibit you from losing weight. A study at the University of Chicago showed that restricting sleep to just 4 hours per night for a week brought healthy young adults to the point that some had the glucose and insulin characteristics of diabetics. (2)

There are many ways exercise can help with sleep.

1) When you exercise, your body increases in temperature. As your body drops in temperature, this can promote falling asleep.

2) Exercise is also known to help those with anxiety and depression. Since a lot of sleep problems can be contributed to depression and anxiety, exercise can help alleviate some of those symptoms.

3) Lastly, exercise may reduce insomnia by helping to set body clocks. Sleep is regulated by homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. This biological clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day and dips throughout the day and night. Exercise can help by making the dips less intense, therefore you feeling less sleepy during the day.

Does exercising at night versus earlier in the day interfere with sleep?

While there has always been a lot of contradiction about when the best time to exercise is, the National Sleep Foundation has recently amended their recommendations. They believe that exercise is more important than not, so it is beneficial to exercise regardless of the time of day as long as it is not at the expense of sleep. If you can only workout late in the evening, it is encouraged that you do instead of skipping the workout because you feel it is too close to bedtime.

Here are some general rules to encourage a good night’s rest:

  1. Create a comfortable, cool, dark and quiet place to sleep
  2. Practice a relaxation ritual to prepare you for sleep
  3. Set a schedule- wake up and go to bed at the same time each day
  4. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning
  5. Exercise regularly

You already know that exercise and diet are very important components of a healthy lifestyle. It is important that sleep become part of those healthy habits you practice. Sleep can help you on the road to good fitness and overall good health. If you have any questions on how to incorporate better sleep habits into your lifestyle, contact us.


  1. “2013 Sleep and Exercise”. Accessed 17, August 2015. National Sleep Foundation.
  2. “Diet, Exercise and Sleep”. Accessed 17, August 2015. National Sleep Foundation.
  3. “How Does Exercise Affect Sleep Duration and Quality”. Accessed 17, August 2015. National Sleep Foundation.
  4. “How Sleep Affects Your Weight and Performance”. Accessed 24, August 2015. American Council on Exercise.
  5. “Sleep Drive and Your Body Clock”. Accessed 25, August 2015. National Sleep Foundation.
  6. Image courtesy of photostock at


President, Personal Training Manager at Body By Brent LLC