It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do. Anything that tires you out is good. It doesn’t have to be rigorous either. A brisk walk for 30 minutes will do the trick. I recommend exercising at least four times a week (outside whenever possible) on a regular basis to get the full sleep benefits.
Personal Tip: On nights you don’t sleep well, you will be tempted to skip exercise the next day. You may think, “I’m tired and don’t have the energy.” That’s what I thought when I experienced sleep problems, and I was tempted to not exercise on those days and “just rest.”
But even if you are tired and only sleep a couple hours (or not at all), stick to your exercise schedule (the exception would be if you are sick). It may be harder, but it will still have all the benefits noted, as well as creating more pressure on your body to sleep that night.
Alternatives to exercise and exposure to sunlight
A hot bath:
If you are unable to exercise for some reason (an injury, sickness), one great alternative is a hot bath. Like exercise, a hot bath raises your body temperature, then causes it to steeply decrease (a good thing!) from the time you bathe to the time you go to sleep. It’s also relaxing. .
It’s important to make the bath hot and keep it hot for 20-30 minutes as you soak. You can also use a Jacuzzi. You should do this about two hours before bedtime, because the temperature drop happens more quickly after a bath than after exercise. Don’t take it any closer than two hours before bedtime or your body temperature may not have time to drop enough for sleep.
For people who live in overcast or northern climates, and get limited natural sunlight, the use of a light therapy device can be an alternative for regulating your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle (though it is not as effective as getting natural light). Light therapy involves sitting near a device that emits bright light that simulates outdoor light. You use it for about 15 to 45 minutes each morning, while doing work or other tasks.
In addition to exercise, an active lifestyle will help your sleep. Being active means engaging in life with both mind and body. Pursue the career of your dreams, take up hobbies you enjoy, go out with friends, travel, play sports for fun, make love, enjoy the arts, read, learn, and spend time with family. Challenge yourself both physically and intellectually. The more active you are in this respect, the more rewarding life will be, and the more satisfied and tired you will be at the end of your day. The more satisfied and active you are in your life, the more peace of mind you will have at night when you get into bed and the better you will sleep.