Want to sleep better? Get moving earlier. In a recent study at Appalachian State University, led by Scott Collier, PhD, participants ran on treadmills for 30 minutes, three times a week — at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. When working out in the morning, the study subjects experienced better-quality sleep that night, spending up to 75 percent more time in “deep sleep,” the reparative third and fourth stages of the five-stage sleep cycle, than when the subjects exercised in the afternoon or evening. This, says Collier, has some very real physical and psychological benefits. “When you spend more time in deep sleep, your body is able to repair itself more efficiently. It also helps you maintain your weight, cope with stress and feel better about yourself.”
Don’t fret if you’re not awake and ready to head to the gym at the crack of dawn. Just try to exercise within an hour of waking, says Collier. “The longer an individual takes to exercise in the morning, the more the results will resemble our 1 p.m. time,” which showed little sleep improvement.