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Working Out Before Bed: Does it Affect Your Sleep?


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December 13, 2022

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Working out before bed: Maybe you are the type of person who loves to do some weight lifting while watching FRIENDS late night or prefer running on a treadmill at 10:30 p.m. or even have a few pilates sessions after you have digested your food. But little did you know that working out before bed time isn’t really a good idea.

Let’s understand why.

What Happens If You Work Out Before Bed?

Exercising raises the heart rate, increases the core body temperature, and helps the body to release epinephrine (adrenaline).

Though these are the usual desirable outcomes (also the key reasons people workout), it has been long said that working out before bed can affect the physical exertion and can affect the sleep cycle.

Women working out

Now, the million dollar question is: does working out before bed really affect sleep or it’s only a myth that people have created all these years?
According to the latest studies, this might not be true. Many researchers have reported that it is still possible to exercise close to your bedtime and yet have a sound sleep.

So working out before you sleep might not really affect your sleep. Wondering how? Well, the key to pull this off right is by focusing on 2 aspects:

  • The timing of the exercise
  • The type of exercise
  • The food you eat for dinner

When these factors are taken care of rightly, it won’t affect the way you sleep.

What Do Studies Say About This?

Many studies have questioned and challenged the idea of exercising late night disrupting the sleep cycle. Here are a few worth mentioning.

Research 1:

During this 2020 study, which involved 12 healthy men being studied for 3 separate nights where all of them performed moderate-intensity aerobic exercises for 30 minutes (late evening on the first day), moderate-intensity resistance training for 30 minutes (late evening on the second day), and then no exercises at all (late evening on the on the third day). But every workout session ended at 90 minutes prior to bedtime.

All participants slept right in the lab, where researchers could measure their:

  • Sleep quality
  • Core body temperature

Upon examination, the researchers found that the participants who performed moderate-intensity workouts late evening did not have any effects on their sleep. So this means that doing little exercises and not being too vigorous about it doesn’t affect the sleep.

Research 2:

Even this study reported similar results. It involved 16 men & women as participants who performed moderate-intensity exercises at different time intervals, including 2 or 4 hours prior to bedtime. It concluded by stating that working out late in the evening didn’t disturb their ability to sleep.

Research 3:

This review performed in 2019 examined about 23 studies that involved participants performing evening exercises and how it affected their sleep.
After deep analysis, the review concluded by saying that evening exercises can in fact, improve sleep quality as long as they were done moderately—and not vigorously—given that the session ended within 1 – 2 hours before bedtime.

Considering all of these, here’s the precise answer.

work out 1

Does working out before bed affect sleep?

Doing moderate-intensity exercises for 60 – 90 minutes before bedtime doesn’t affect the ability to sleep.

Exercises To Do and Not Do Before Bed Time

Understand that not all workouts are created equal, especially the ones you do a few hours before bedtime and that’s why whenever you prefer working out in the evenings, it’s vital to pick your activity smartly.

Besides being particular about the exercises you do, consider the timing of the workouts, too. Generally, if you are someone who prefers exercising at night, then it’s best to perform light or moderate-intensity activities.

Activities on a moderate level can help you sleep better and faster. Eventually, it also enhances the overall sleep quality.

Also, it’s crucial to complete the exercises at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Try aiming to finish before 90 minutes at least, as this gives the body adequate time to relax.

Some of the best light to moderate-intensity exercises include:

  • Stretching
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Leisure swimming
  • Leisure biking
  • Weightlifting (but light or moderate)
Women doing yoga

On the other hand, vigorous workouts should be strictly avoided during late evenings. Strenuous physical activities can stimulate the nervous system, raising the heart rate to an extent that it makes it hard to fall asleep.

Do not perform these vigorous-intensity exercises before bedtime or late evenings:

  • HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training)
  • Swimming laps
  • Running
  • Skipping or jumping rope
  • Heavy weightlifting
  • Extreme cycling
cross fit workout

How Much Exercises Help Sleep Peacefully at Night?

In order to improve the overall sleep health, focus doing just 30 – 40 minutes of light or moderate-intensity aerobic activities in the day or late evening.

But regular exercising is crucial for continuous and better sleep benefits. So do moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes every week. Now, you can do this either by performing a 30-minute workout for 5 days per week.

For some reasons, if it is difficult to commit to a 30-minute workout together, break this into two 15-minute or three 10-minute workouts per day, continuing the pattern for 5 days per week.

On the other hand, if you are someone who prefers more strenuous workouts, do vigorous-intensity activities each week for a minimum of 75 minutes. But ensure that you never do these types of exercises within a couple of hours before bedtime. Instead, do an activity which you truly enjoy.

Wrapping Up

Exercising before bedtime has been discouraged most of the time. It was believed that working out in late evenings makes it hard for one to have a healthy night’s sleep.

But if recent studies were to be considered, doing light to moderate-intensity exercises don’t really impact your sleep, provided that you finish it within 1-1.5 hour prior to bedtime.

Additionally, performing strenuous physical activities before bedtime can have immense negative effects on sleep and this typically includes workouts such as high-intensity interval training, heavy weightlifting, and running.

However, it’s also important to know that every human is different. What might work the best for one, may not be the same for the other. Hence, the ideal time to be active is to know which time actually works for you. This might need some experimentation in the beginning to later follow it up as a regime.

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