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A cyclists next to his bike during the sunset.

6 Ways Cycling Can Help You Sleep Better

Good quality sleep is so important for healthy brain and body functioning. Not getting adequate sleep makes you feel terrible and it can also greatly increase your risk for chronic health problems over time.1 You likely already know that there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep, but were you aware that cycling was one of them?

Regular cycling has many sleep aid benefits that may help you get a good night’s rest and improve your overall health. If you need some more motivation to get pedaling, here are six of the top reasons cycling can help you sleep better at night.

1. It’s good exercise.

A female cyclists going under bridge.

Researchers know that physical activity contributes to more restful sleep, but the exact science behind it is still unclear. More than likely, it has to do with how the body and brain work together.2 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, moderate aerobic exercise like cycling increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get each night. Slow wave sleep is a deep sleep in which your body and brain are rejuvenated.3 Exercise can also help stabilize your mood, calm anxiety, and help you process your thoughts, which can help you transition into sleep more easily.3

As a result, getting 30 minutes of good cycling every day may have a huge impact on how long and how well you sleep each night.

2. It’s easy on your bones and joints.

A mountain biker at sunset.

Some forms of aerobic exercise like running and cardio kickboxing can be hard on your bones and joints, especially if you’re older and have conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis. Aches and pains from these types of activities can easily keep you up at night, contributing to daytime drowsiness, mental fogginess, and other negative side effects.

Cycling, on the other hand, is an excellent low-impact aerobic activity that limits the impact on commonly affected bones and joints, like your knees, hips, or feet. So when you slide into bed each night, you’re less likely to deal with soreness, injuries, and achy joints caused by your daily physical exercise.

Although cycling is a great form of exercise for individuals of all abilities and ages, no physical activity is without risk. Watch for these common cycling injuries and learn about the various ways to prevent them.

3. It reduces back pain.

3 older men in full cycling outfits smiling into the camera.

Similarly, anyone who’s ever had back pain knows it can be very difficult to get to sleep with an achy back. Whether your back pain is caused by poor posture, a desk job, or a previous injury, cycling may help you get to bed each night by loosening your muscles and increasing blood flow throughout your body, which can help ease soreness.4

Indoor cycling is particularly helpful if you struggle with chronic back pain because you can cycle without riding over any jarring, rough terrain that may make your back feel worse.5 Regardless, if you have serious or chronic back pain, you should always consult with your doctor before starting a new cycling routine. Depending on the cause of your chronic back pain, cycling might not be the best option for exercise, but a doctor can help you determine what is.

4. It can help you cope with stress.

Older gentlemen mountain up top a rocky hill.

Stress is one of the most common causes of sleep deprivation. It can affect your sleep quality and how long you sleep each night because it contributes to higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which interfere with your regular sleep patterns.

Whether it’s stress you bring back from the office or an issue you’re dealing with at home, if you avoid addressing chronic stress, you may develop serious physical or mental health problems over time.

Fortunately, researchers have found that even just 10 to 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise can significantly alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.6 In fact, for some individuals, it might even be as effective as taking medication.

If you’re looking for a way to de-stress, cycling is an excellent, low-impact stress-relieving activity. It can improve your energy levels, get your blood pumping, and provide a fun way for you to interact with like-minded friends. And even when the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can still get in a great workout on an indoor trainer with Vingo.

5. It may help regulate your circadian rhythm.

Group of women riding in a bike lane.

Your circadian rhythm is your internal 24-hour clock that’s tied to the cycle of day and night. If it’s not properly aligned, it can produce serious sleeping problems that can result in issues like insomnia or inconsistent sleep patterns.

During the day, exposure to light affects our bodies’ natural chemical production and internal clock, which helps keep us awake and alert. At night, our bodies produce a chemical known as melatonin, which helps make us sleepy and feel ready for bedtime.

Research has indicated there’s also a strong relationship between exercise and circadian rhythm. For instance, getting regular exercise during the daytime can affect how certain chemicals are released in the body, often helping correct issues with your circadian rhythm.7

For those who consistently struggle to get into a rhythm of healthy waking and sleeping, daily cycling may help regulate hormone production and get things back on track.

6. It may reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.

Group in a spin class.

Various forms of aerobic exercise like cycling can also improve your sleep quality in more indirect ways. For example, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common sleep disorder which causes you to stop and start breathing repeatedly while you sleep, is often attributed to obesity.

OSA can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, headaches, mood swings, and many other harmful side effects as a result of the loss of sleep. Over time, the chronic fatigue and irritability can take a serious toll.

Most people with OSA are overweight.8 However, a moderate cardio routine that incorporates exercise like cycling can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea or decrease your risk of developing OSA. 

Key Takeaways:

Cycling has many positive side effects on sleep. When combined with other positive sleep hygiene practices and a healthy lifestyle, a regular cycling routine may help you get more restful sleep at night and combat common issues like obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and inconsistent sleep patterns.

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Sources:

  1. Why Is Sleep Important? (2022, March 24). NHLBI, NIH. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep/why-sleep-important 
  2. Kline, C. E. (2014). The Bidirectional Relationship Between Exercise and Sleep. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 375–379. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827614544437 
  3. Exercising for Better Sleep. (2021, August 8). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep 
  4. 5 Ways to Ease Sore Muscles. (n.d.). Hospital for Special Surgery. https://www.hss.edu/newsroom_ways-to-ease-sore-muscles.asp
  5. Can back-pain sufferers benefit from a biking routine? | News. (2020, October 28). https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/can-back-pain-sufferers-benefit-from-biking-routine 
  6. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety 
  7. Wang, C. (2017). Circadian Rhythm, Exercise, and Heart. Acta Cardiologica Sinica, 33(5). https://doi.org/10.6515/ACS20170604A 
  8. Obstructive sleep apnea – Symptoms and causes. (2021, July 27). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352090 

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