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Top Ten Sleep Disturbances – #9 Activity/Inactivity

Written by Heather Johnson, RN
Resource Nurse, Empira

How Does Activity Affect Sleep?

Regular physical activityHave you made the connection yet between how improving your exercise and physical movement during the day can positively, and significantly, improve your ability to sleep well at night? Some may think that is a no-brainer connection, however, it is worth exploring how that connection works.

  • Being more physically active, requires energy. Expending energy helps a person feel more tired and ready to fall asleep at the end of their day. In fact, our bodies produce a hormone called Adenosine, and this hormone acts as a neurotransmitter as it continues to build up during the day when a body is more and more physically active. Ultimately, it is the buildup of this hormone that will “drive” our bodies to sleep at night.
  • Physical activity during waking day time hours increases our time spent in the deep sleep phase at night. This deep stage is where the majority of our physical healing takes place and where our immunity is built and restored.
  • Regular physical activity and exercise can also help in our body’s ability to reduce stress levels. Stress is often a common cause of sleep issues when it comes to falling asleep, resulting in restlessness and bouts of wakefulness during the night.

The National Sleep Foundation offers that as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or riding a cycling, can dramatically improve your sleep quality, especially when it is done on a routine basis. Research indicates and supports that early morning and afternoon exercise helps to reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly and then allowing it to drop later in the day. Exercise promotes increased sleep efficiency and duration regardless of the mode and intensity of the activity, especially in the middle-aged and elderly adults and those suffering from disease.

What can we do?

  • Determine what activities and physical movement are of interest to you or your loved one. If you are a person who enjoys walking, by all means, walk and when possible do this outside and expose yourself to the outdoors and sunlight. Do what you enjoy!
  • Create opportunities for purposeful movement throughout the day. Even 5-minute increments of exercise, scattered throughout the day, are beneficial.
  • Incorporate movement with something fun! Example: Playing your favorite music while you fold laundry, wash dished, or clean.
  • Create a routine to ensure that activity and movement happens.
    Find a Buddy or two to move with you.
  • Know your physical limitations and the limitations of your loved one. Find opportunities and be creative.

Not only does physical movement and exercise have a positive impact on our sleep, physical movement promotes a sense of well-being, self-worth, improves mood, reduces the risk of several diseases, promotes stronger bone and muscle health, lowers the risk of falls, and provides an opportunity to socialize.
Regular physical activity and exercise can help you to fall asleep faster, get better sleep, deepen your sleep, and improve your over-all sense of well-being! It’s a good thing.


Dolezol, B.A., Neufeld, E.V., Cooper, C.B. Interrelationship between sleep and exercise: a systematic review. (2017). Adv Prev Med. 2017; 1364387. doi: 10.1155/2017/1364387.
Mayo Clinic: Exercise: 7 benefits of regular exercise. (2018). Retrieved on Feb. 17, 2018 from:

National Sleep Foundation: The Science of Sleep & Your Lifestyle: How exercise impacts sleep quality. (2018). Retrieved on Feb 17, 2018 from:

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