The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


What You Do in the Morning Could Help You Sleep Better at Night

Posted in
Live well

Monday, Jun 13, 2011

Question: When is the best time of day to exercise? Answer: In terms of quality of sleep, new research presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine this month suggests morning may be best.1

Sleep is often viewed as a luxury and something we commonly sacrifice when trying to fit everything into our busy lives. Studies show, however, that people who get the appropriate amount of sleep tend to live longer, healthier lives than those who do not.2 Specifically, not getting enough sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Instead of being viewed as a luxury, really it needs to be viewed as a necessity.

It has been well established that exercise improves sleep quality.3 Researchers from Appalachian State University, however, wanted to see if the timing of exercise could maximize these benefits. Subjects exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes on three separate occasions at three different times; 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7 p.m. At night, subjects wore a sleep-monitoring device to measure sleep stage time and quality of sleep. It was found that exercising at 7 a.m. resulted in greater improvements in the quality of sleep compared to the other two times. The subjects spent more time in light sleep by 85% and more time in deep sleep by 75%. This suggests that well-timed exercise can result in even greater sleep quality.

How Much Do We Need? There is not an exact number when it comes to how much sleep we need for a few reasons. How much we need depends on our age but also varies between individuals. Two people the same age and gender could have two different sleep needs. Also, not getting enough sleep can create what is called a "sleep debt" which is like being overdrawn at a bank. We often “pay back” this debt which causes a variation in the total amount of sleep, as well.

In general, however, The National Sleep Foundation4 suggests that school-age children (5-10 years) need 10-11 hours of sleep daily; teens (10-17 years) need 8.5-9.25 hours; and adults need 7-9 hours.

Tips for Resting Up Exercise is one way to improve your quality of sleep. The following are some additional suggestions to help you create better sleep habits:

  • Establish a regular sleep and wake time, even on the weekends
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine about an hour before you plan to sleep (soaking in a hot bath, listening to soothing music)
  • Stop using nicotine products
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep (do not watch TV, use a computer, or read in bed)
And if you can’t exercise in the morning like this research suggests consistent exercise is still important but it is best to finish working out at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Make sleep a priority--Your health will thank you!

1American College of Sports Medicine (June 4, 2011). “For best sleep, work up a sweat in the morning”. News release. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 2Reite M, Ruddy J, Nagel K. Concise guide to evaluation and management of sleep disorders (3rd ed). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 2002 3Institute of Medicine. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006. 4National Sleep Foundation. (2011). “How much sleep do we really need”. Retrieved June 6, 2011.