Exercising before going to bed: good or bad for sleep?

Regular exercise has many benefits, including better sleep. It can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and normalize your internal clock. Exercise also increases your core body temperature. When it begins to drop, you feel drowsy. It was long believed that working out before bed could make it harder to get a good night’s rest. But, according to recent research, this is not necessarily true. Studies have shown that it is possible to benefit from physical exercise before bed, without compromising sleep.

The key is to pay attention to the exact timing and focus on the type of exercise that won’t affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

What does the research say?

Recent studies have challenged the idea that exercising too late in the day could disrupt your sleep. In a small 2020 study, 12 healthy men visited a lab on three different nights. They did either 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance training, or no exercise at all. Each workout ended 90 minutes before bedtime. While the participants slept in the lab, the researchers measured their body temperature and the quality of their sleep. The researchers determined that evening moderate-intensity workouts had no effect on participants’ sleep.

Another 2020 study found similar results. Sixteen men and women completed medium-intensity workouts at different times, including 4 or 2 hours before bedtime. The researchers found that the evening exercise did not disrupt the participants’ ability to sleep.

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Finally, a 2019 study analyzed 23 studies on exercise and evening sleep. The analysis determined that evening exercise can improve sleep provided exercise is done at a moderate intensity and completed more than an hour before bedtime.

Are some types of exercise better than others before bedtime?

Not all exercises are created equal when it comes to their effect on sleep. This is why, if you want to train in the evening, it is important to choose your activity wisely. Also, consider exactly when you exercise. In general, if you want to exercise at night, it’s best to do light to moderate intensity activity. This level of activity can help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.
It’s also important to finish your workout at least an hour before bedtime. If possible, try to finish at least 90 minutes before bedtime. This will give your body enough time to relax.

Here are some examples of light to moderate intensity activities:

– yoga
– stretching
– walk
– swim quietly
– cycling in peace
– light to moderate weightlifting

However, vigorous training in the evening should be avoided. Intense physical activity can stimulate your nervous system and increase your heart rate too much, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Here are some examples of vigorous exercise:

– high intensity interval training (HIIT)
– swimming pool lengths
– jumping rope
– competitive cycling
– heavy weightlifting

How much exercise is helpful for sleep?

To improve your sleep health, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during the day or evening. However, regular exercise is essential for continued sleep benefits. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. You can achieve this by doing 30 minute workouts 5 days a week. If it is difficult to commit to 30 minutes of exercise at a time, you can divide this activity into two sessions of 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week.

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Or, if you prefer a more intense workout, aim for at least 75 minutes of intense activity each week. Just be careful not to do this type of exercise within a few hours of going to bed.

Find an activity you enjoy. If you really enjoy an exercise, it will be easier for you to do it regularly.


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