Does it really matter when you do workouts? There’s absolutely, positively no question that regular exercise can provide health benefits related to heart health, muscle strength, and blood circulation. That’s not all. It can also help you to stay calm, lower stress levels, and provide better sleep by regulating the human body’s internal clock. There are all big pluses.
Still, a long-standing belief is that doing exercise like gym workouts before bedtime can make it tougher to achieve quality sleep. However, recent studies show that it’s even possible to do physical exercise close to bedtime and not experience problems like sleep deprivation. I’d like to share some information about how fitness factors like timing, intensity duration, and affect catching zzz’s.
Theories of Daytime-only Workouts vs. Nighttime Workouts
Bedtime Exercise: Bro Science?
The idea that people should avoid all nighttime exercise is a popular myth. However, like others, it’s important to take a closer look. First, when exercising you experience physical changes like higher heart rate, increased core body temperature, and adrenaline release.
There’s no doubt these factors could affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Does this mean you should ditch all post-dinner exercises? In theory, this could just be a convoluted idea created by people who want to skip exercise after work.
The Need for Night
On the other hand, there are various reasons why some people might opt to do workouts post-dinner or even close to bedtime.
Busy schedule. there’s the complex issue of when it’s safe to exercise after a full meal. In general, you should wait one or two hours before you exercise. Due to a hectic schedule, this means some people have to exercise post-dinner to avoid running on a full stomach, for example.
Workout length. Even if they own a fitness tracker, many people are too busy with work, school, and errands during the day to squeeze in a workout. So it’s more practical for them to hit the gym between eating dinner and going to bed.
Lunch hour. Today workplace gyms are more common than before. Here’s the problem. It’s not really practical to eat lunch, do exercise, and clean up during a one-hour midday break.
Not morning people. There’s the alternative to waking up super-early to exercise. The problem is not everyone is a “morning lark.” The idea of running in the street, doing one-arm pushups, and drinking raw eggs like Rocky doesn’t seem too appealing.
What Does Research Say about Exercise and Snoozing?
In order to separate fact from fiction, it’s important to look at past studies for some answers. Based on past research, working out near bedtime doesn’t generally affect sleep quality.
2011 sleep Study
This study found that sleeping near bedtime didn’t seem to affect people’s sleep quality. The study’s participants slept as well when they exercised for 35 minutes before going to sleep versus nights they didn’t do workouts before hitting the hay.
2013 Sleep in America Poll
The 2013 “Sleep in America” poll included 1,000 participants. The poll discovered that 83% of those who exercised any time during the day reported better sleep quality versus those who didn’t exercise at all. This included late-night exercise!
There were some other key findings. Over half of the participants who did moderate or high-intensity workouts slept better versus no-exercise days. Meanwhile, just 3% of late-day exercises slept worse versus rest days.
2018 Sports Medicine Study review
This study showed that night workouts aren’t a problem if you avoid high-intensity physical activity 1+ hours before bedtime.
Researchers reviewed about two dozen studies. The studies involved the sleep quality of healthy adults who did one session of evening exercise versus the non-exercise group.
The researchers discovered that evening exercise didn’t have an effect on sleep quality. There’s more! In fact, exercise actually seemed to help people doze off faster and experience rapid eye movement (REM) or “‘deep sleep.”
There was an exception. People who did high-intensity training, like interval training, within one hour of bedtime experienced some sleep issues. It took them longer to fall asleep, and their sleep quality dropped.
Sleep experts explain most people aren’t affected by evening workouts because the body undergoes a drop in feel-good hormones like cortisol and adrenaline within one after the workout. This causes the body to go into a relaxed, pre-sleep state. Other helpful factors are lower body temperatures and loose muscles.
This makes it practical to give your body an hour or two to wind down between exercise and bedtime after finding the right mattress for restful sleep.
Brett is a writer at ID-Mag. An enthusiast and expert when it comes to sleep products, Brett dedicates a lot of his time reading, researching, and reviewing about both traditional and emerging sleep brands that manufacture varied types of sleep products – from eco-mattresses, smart pillows to cooling sleep systems, Brett has probably reviewed them all. Brett also finds sleep especially important since he juggles a small business which he runs from home, makes sure he spends time with his daughter and he also writes during his spare time – you can definitely see that he needs a great forty winks all night, every night so he’ll make sure that you get great sleep, too!