Exercising At Night, Is It Good Or Bad For Sleep?


Exercise has many benefits to health. One of which is it's ability to help relax, reduce anxiety which results in better sleep. It's been long suggested that working out before bed can make it harder to get sleep. So is it good or bad for sleep to exercise at night?



Exercise And Sleep


Many people have heard that exercising later in the evening makes it difficult to sleep. But research has shown that evening exercise shouldn't disrupt sleep.


Further studies have shown that exercise shouldn't disrupt deep sleep, as long as it's at least 90 minutes before to going to bed.


Miller et al., (2019) also confirmed the notion that completing moderate intensity exercise ceasing 90 minutes before sleeping did not compromise sleep quality.


However, not all exercise positively affects sleep. According to Harvard, those who did high intensity exercise less than one hour before bedtime took longer to fall asleep. They also had poorer sleep quality.


Types Of Exercise


Exercise affects sleep both positively and negatively, so what exercise is best for later at night?


If you're choosing to exercise later on at night then it's important to choose what you do wisely.


Research suggests moderate to low intensity exercise. This intensity allows for your core body temperature and heart rate to decrease to pre-exercise levels. This makes it easier to fall asleep after exercise. This helps improve quality of sleep.


Examples of low to moderate-intensity activities include:

  • yoga

  • Pilates

  • Stretching

  • Self-massage

  • Relaxation exercises

  • Meditation

  • Walking

  • Leisurely cardio activities

  • Light to moderate resistance training

Vigorous workouts should be avoided later at night. Strenuous activities also stimulate the nervous system and increase your core body temperate and heart rate too much. This makes it harder to sleep.


Examples of vigorous intensity activities include:

  • High intensity interval training (HIIT)

  • Competitive exercise or sport

  • High intensity resistance training

  • High intensity cardio exercises


It's also important to complete workouts at least 60-90 minutes before going to sleep. This gives time for your body to wind down and relax before going to bed.



How Much Exercise Is Good For Sleep?


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This equates to 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days per week. They also suggest two strength based activities per week. High intensity exercise is recommended at 75 minutes per week.


Although increased physical activity will help improve health, any physical activity should help improve quality of sleep.


Other Considerations To Help You Sleep


Sleep Schedule: Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day can help stabilise your body clock. Thus Improving sleep quality.


Avoid Electronic Devices: The lights from electrical devices can stimulate the brain which can keep you awake. Try switching off TVs, phones, laptops and any other electrical devices you use.


Bedtime Routine: Create a routine that can prepare you to sleep. Taking a bath or shower, listening to music or stretching can all help you relax and get you ready for bed.


Get Comfortable: Ensuring you have pillows, duvets and mattresses that are comfortable can help you sleep better.


Keep Naps Short: Napping too long can mean you wake up feeling groggy as you disrupt the body's deep sleep. Falling into deep sleep can make it harder to fall asleep later on. Instead keep naps to 20-30 minutes long.


Take Home Message


Working out before bedtime has previously been discouraged. It was thought that exercising later at night could make it more difficult to fall asleep.


Recent studies have now found that low to moderate intensity exercise doesn't affect sleep quality.


Strenuous exercise just before bed may negatively impact your sleep. This includes exercise such as HIIT or heavy resistance training.


Exercise at night should be completed at least 60-90 minutes prior to going to bed.


It is important to note that everyone is different. The best time to exercise is one that works for you.