As you might’ve noticed, there is some discourse when it comes to ideal exercise periods during the day. Should I exercise first thing in the morning? What if I only have time at night, what can I do? We used to always hear that exercising before bed was bad, that it gets you in an adrenaline peak hindering you from sleeping. However, recent research has been claiming that it might be beneficial for sleep.
In reality, nightly workouts don’t affect your sleep, rather, some scientists believe that they might be good for you. The previous thought was that the sleep cycles were affected by this energy peak, leaving you restless and keeping you awake. However, after careful consideration, it might be the opposite! It has been shown that working out in the evening can help increase the total sleep duration. It also helps improve the later sleep stages that manage memory and learning. Additionally, exercising outside can help regulate the circadian cycles as one would be in sync with the day-night cycle.
There are a few advantages to working out in the evening:
1. It provides better sleep
Some studies show that exercise helps you fall asleep quicker and allows you to spend more time in deep sleep. This also means more time in REM sleep which has significant restorative powers.
2. Increase in sleep hygiene
Exercise is a good sleep hygiene practice. It aids in helping you sleep better, consequently making you feel better and more rested. It also increases total sleep duration, ensuring you get all the recommended rest.
3. Better overall health
More than just helping you fall asleep, exercising is needed for better health. You should incorporate it into your daily life, if your preference is to
exercise at night, then go for it! Furthermore, exercising helps release happy hormones that reduce stress and blood pressure.
There are just a few things to keep in mind when exercising in the evening. To benefit from these perks you should refrain from exercising for at least 90 minutes before bed. This is due to the increase in body temperature that happens when you are active. Although it is a normal part of exercising, it’s detrimental to sleep and can block you from having a proper night’s sleep. You should also keep in mind the types of exercises you are doing, especially if it is up to one hour before sleep. Vigorous exercising can also affect your sleep efficiency. Running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and lifting heavy weights shortly before bed can prevent you from getting a good rest. So try and focus more on aerobic exercises, stretches and yoga if you’re doing it right before bed.
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that, no matter what time, staying active is the most important. Exercising regularly is imperative for your well-being and sleep so make it a priority. If for you that means working out in the evening then just follow these tips!
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Ana Dantas is in the last year of her Bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of Porto. She is currently an intern at Willingness within the Health Clinic, with a special interest in neuroscience and social psychology.
D. J. Miller, C. Sargent, G. D. Roach, A. T. Scanlan, G. E. Vincent & M. Lastella (2020) Moderate-intensity exercise performed in the evening does not impair sleep in healthy males, European Journal of Sport Science, 20:1, 80-89, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2019.1611934
Nunez, K. (2020, July 9). Can Exercising Before Bed Affect Your Sleep? Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/working-out-before-bed
LeWine, H. (2019, April). Does exercising at night affect sleep? Harvard Health; Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/does-exercising-at-night affect-sleep Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R. & Spengler, C.M. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 49, 269–287 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0