Book a consultation

Can you exercise your way to better sleep?

During the perimenopause and beyond, sleep can become a struggle but there could be a natural way to help…

  • Around half of women struggle with sleep around the time of menopause
  • Exercise is an important tool to help improve sleep
  • Discover what exercises work best, and when to do them

Sleep can prove a challenge at various times of life but the perimenopause and menopause can be particularly trying. In fact, menopausal women report insomnia as one of their most common symptoms [1]. It’s believed 46% of women have difficulties sleeping in the years leading up to menopause and this can continue, with around half of women experiencing sleep disorders after menopause [2].

According to the Sleep Foundation, women have an increased risk of developing insomnia during and after the menopause years, where they struggle to fall and stay asleep. While night sweats are a common symptom of menopause, these aren’t always the cause of the insomnia – increased wakefulness can in fact cause people to notice and be affected by the sweats, rather than sleeping through them.

Declining hormones can impact your sleep – oestrogen helps the quality and duration of sleep while progesterone improves relaxation and affects the production of GABA, a chemical in your brain that helps sleep.

You may also find you snore more during menopause and beyond – the soft tissues in the throat become more collapsible and if you have gained weight, that can cause obstructions. Your own snoring can disrupt your sleep – not just your partner’s!

Restless legs syndrome can be experienced more during menopause and this discomfort can make it tricky to sleep.

RELATED: sleep and hormones factsheet

Why sleep is important

Most of us know the value of getting good quality sleep – and can, in fact, feel the effects when we don’t get a good night. But it’s worth keeping in mind the long-term risks – not only can a lack of sleep affect your mood and even cause mental disorders such as depression and anxiety [3], it can lead to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack and stroke [4].

Of course, knowing how important sleep is can be stressful when your sleep is disturbed and most people who suffer from it will be well aware of the usual recommendations to help improve sleep. A consistent bedtime and wake-up time, a dark room, ideally 16-18°C, and a good night routine, free from screens, can help some people.

Others have found the likes of CBT, breathing exercises or relaxation techniques useful in aiding sleep.

RELATED: you are feeling sleeeepy podcast: Kathryn Pinkham & Dr Louise Newson

How can exercise help?

Exercise is known to help sleep – various studies have suggested moderate physical exercise is an effective non-pharmacological treatment for sleep disorders [5]. While researchers don’t know exactly how it improves sleep, they do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of deep sleep you get, which is when your brain and body are in recovery mode.

It also helps control depression and anxiety, which in themselves can be barriers to sleep. During the perimenopause and menopause, many women report psychological symptoms such as anxiety so if this is the cause of your sleep problems, exercise can be an effective way of managing it.

What exercise should I do?

There have been numerous studies that have specifically looked at the benefits of exercise for sleep in perimenopausal and menopausal women. One study reviewed 12 trials involving 1,493 women and found that “exercise interventions can effectively improve sleep quality and insomnia symptoms in perimenopausal women” [6].

Interestingly, this study looked at exercises including yoga, walking, aerobic exercise and fitness Qigong, an ancient Chinese exercise that consists of meditation, breathing, body postures and gentle movements. Fitness Qigong was found to have the most sleep promoting effect, and the study recommended adopting it three times a week or more, for 30-60 minutes each session, over a period of 10-12 weeks to best feel the effects.

Recently, another review looked into the effects of exercise on sleep in menopausal women and confirmed that exercise should be recommended to help improve sleep [7]. It also found that exercise had a more profound effect on women with sleep disorders than those without sleep disorders. While there was no verdict on which type of exercise was the most beneficial, it’s worth remembering that any exercise is helpful to your health and there are no side effects to worry about!

RELATED: Gabby Logan: the power of exercising in midlife

According to The Sleep Foundation, aerobic or resistance exercise in the morning may stimulate earlier melatonin release in the evening, while high-intensity exercise in the afternoon may reduce wakefulness at night. It also suggests that light resistance or aerobic exercise in the evening may help to reduce nighttime awakenings.

It’s worth taking some time to work out what best works for you and your schedule – experiment with different styles of exercise at different times of day to see what suits. You may be surprised. For instance, one survey found that the majority of people who exercise at 8pm or later fall asleep quickly, get an adequate amount of deep sleep and wake up feeling rested [8]. And those who exercise between 4pm and 8pm reported similar experiences so, contrary to popular belief, exercising later can be of benefit to some.

You could start by adding some yoga or light stretching and breathing exercises to your bedtime routine – give it time and see if it has a positive effect on your sleep, no matter how small. Then add in aerobic or higher intensity exercise earlier in your day – it doesn’t need to be a long session but anything that raises your body’s core temperature will signal to your body clock that it’s time to be awake, and will help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.

There’s no one exercise prescription that will suit all but rest assured that you don’t need to train hard for hours to see a difference in the quality of your sleep. Chose exercises that you enjoy, which will help relieve stress and release endorphins, which can help alleviate pain and promote feelings of pleasure. Experiment and find the exercise routine that suits you – not only will this help to promote good sleep during the menopause but it will help future proof your health.

RELATED: exercise snacks and menopause with Lavina Mehta MBE


  1. Proserpio P., Marra S., Campana C., Agostoni E.C., Palagini L., Nobili L., et al. (2020), ‘Insomnia and menopause: a narrative review on mechanisms and treatments’, Climacteric, 23, pp539–49. Doi: 10.1080/13697137.2020.1799973
  2. Sleep Foundation
  3. Moreno-Frias C., Figueroa-Vega N., Malacara J.M. (2014), ‘Relationship of sleep alterations with perimenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms’, Menopause-J N Am Menopause Soc, 21, pp1017-1022. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000206
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten H.R., Altevogt B.M., editors. (2006), Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem, Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 3, Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders.
  5. Chennaoui M., Arnal P.J., Sauvet F., Léger D. (2015), ‘Sleep and exercise: a reciprocal issue?’, Sleep Med Rev. Apr; 20, pp59-72. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.06.008.
  6. Zhao M., Sun M., Zhao R., Chen P., Li S. Effects of exercise on sleep in perimenopausal women: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, EXPLORE, Volume 19, Issue 5, 2023, Pages 636-645,
  7. Qian J., Sun S., Wang M., Sun Y., Sun X., Jevitt C. and Yu X. (2023), ‘The e􀀀ect of exercise intervention on improving sleep in menopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Front. Med. 10:1092294. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2023.1092294
  8. Youngstedt S. D., & Kline C. E. (2006), ‘Epidemiology of exercise and sleep’, Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4(3), pp215–221. DOI: 10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00235.x
Can you exercise your way to better sleep?

Looking for Menopause Doctor? You’re in the right place!

  1. We’ve moved to a bigger home at balance for Dr Louise Newson to host all her content.

You can browse all our evidence-based and unbiased information in the Menopause Library.