Regular exercise works hand-in-hand with getting a good night’s sleep as ways to maintain optimal health. The question has always been is it better to work out in the morning or at night? There are several advantages to working out before sleep, but every person is different. Try different times of day to find what works best for you.
Also, take into account: what are your sleep habits? Are you a hot sleeper? See if that’s what’s keeping you up at night or if it’s the exercise itself. Benefits of working out before sleep include:
- Raises body temperature followed by a post-workout cooldown phase
- Alleviates stress and tension
- Establishes a routine that promotes consistency for your circadian rhythm
Establish what your current sleep patterns are and how working out may improve how well you sleep. Reference our article, What is a Normal Sleeping Pattern for further information. Each of these benefits can lead to a consistent sleep schedule and more quality rest per night. By exploring each benefit more fully, you’ll determine what’s likely to be a successful first step for you.
Raises Body Temperature
Working out increases the heart rate, gets the blood pumping, and raises your body temperature. While this may not sound ideal for a good night’s rest, by giving yourself enough time between working and going to sleep, it heats up the body (similar to a warm bath or shower) and then, rewards your workout with a cool down period. Your body temperature weighs heavily on how well you’ll sleep through the night. It naturally lowers when it’s time to sleep. To ensure you’re sleeping at your optimal sleeping temperature, smart beds like the Eight Sleep Pod can regulate your bed to your ideal sleeping temperature.
The idea of “working out, can’t sleep” isn’t necessarily true. There are studies that show working out before bed doesn’t alter the amount or quality of your sleep. However, vigorous activity right before bed may keep you alert for longer.
Plan your workouts accordingly. Avoid working out a few hours before your regular bedtime to give the body enough time to adjust and transition from activity to a resting state. This could mean a high-intensity workout in the morning and a gentle yoga practice or an after-dinner walk in the evening.
Alleviates Stress and Tension
Another positive effect of working out is how it alleviates stress. This is especially helpful before going to sleep if you’re challenged by quieting the mind or feeling antsy as you try to drift off to sleep. Exercise helps to reduce tension and puts you in a relaxed state of being and promotes sleep. Additionally, a post-workout stretch or time spent in a steam room or jacuzzi following a workout can alleviate muscle soreness and provide an overall sense of relaxation the body needs to prepare for sleep.
For many, a workout in the evening is a relaxing transition from the hectic pace of work and commuting to a time where you get to focus on yourself. Exercising for your health isn’t a new concept. Although, studies still find most Americans spend more time participating in sedentary activities like going online or watching TV rather than allotting 20 or 30 minutes for exercise. In fact, some even skip workouts due to stress rather than a way to combat it.
Adding in regular workouts throughout the week is one of the most effective stress management techniques people can try, which in turn, helps to maintain consistent sleep patterns.
Establishes a Routine
Improving sleep habits comes down to finding a routine that works for you. Consistency balances your circadian rhythm and gives you body signals of when it’s time to slow down and rest and when it’s time to be awake and focus. Adding a workout in the evening helps to establish this healthy habit.
To avoid getting burnout, mix up your workouts and establish goals. For example, dealing with a hectic work schedule may mean consistency for you is a 20-minute workout each evening with a mix of high- and low-level intensity exercises. Taking that time each day for yourself gets your mind and body on daily cycle of activity and makes it easier once bedtime rolls around to go to sleep.
Starting with 20 minutes may be too much. Reduce it to 10 and keep the pace low. Stretching, yoga, or other gentle exercises may be just as beneficial if you make it routine. Keep in mind that what works for others may not work for you. A full cardio workout may be well-suited for the morning or during the day. Too much stimulation may keep you awake past your regular bedtime.
If you’ve tried multiple ways of working out in the evening and you feel it’s keeping you up at night, simply switch your schedule. For many, exercise has been known to help create regular sleep patterns, but only you can decide how much it’s helping you.
How Exercise Benefits Sleep in Other Ways
In addition to regulating body temperature, alleviating stress, and helping to establish a routine, regular exercise helps in other ways, which ultimately leads to better sleep. First, it promotes a healthier immune system. The less you fall ill, the more sleep you’re able to get. Whenever cold season rolls around, nighttime coughs, sneezing, and other aches and pains keep people up for hours and make it uncomfortable for them to go to sleep.
By exercising as a means of preventative care, it can lead to less time being sick or less extreme cases. A bad cold or the flu will throw off even the most stringent of sleep schedules. Avoiding illness as much as possible is key. The long-held remedy of getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids holds true today.
In addition to aiding with temporary illness, regular exercise reduces chronic pain and inflammation as well. Matching the exercise to your health or skill level is important to give your body what it needs. Do you regularly suffer from stiff joints and muscles? The gentle stretching of yoga or swimming at a consistent but leisurely pace gives you a workout without adding extra strain on the body. Alternatively, cardio workouts are beneficial for heart health and may reduce the amount of bloating or inflammation in the body. To add an additional precaution, it may also be helpful to research on the best sleeping position for lower back pain.
Regular exercise along with a balanced diet also helps with weight management. Obesity often leads to certain sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. Essentially, sleep apnea causes you to stop and start breathing throughout the night and snore, both of which are sleep disruptors. These types of conditions means you’re not receiving regular sleep throughout the night and have to fight fatigue during the day.
It’s also important to keep in mind that increasing your level of activity affects your metabolism and make you hungrier than before. It’s best to refrain from eating several hours before bed to avoid acid reflux or heartburn, which affects sleep patterns. The body needs enough time to digest before entering a sleep phase, so it’s best to avoid late night eating.
When hunger strikes, choose your late-night snacks wisely. Foods like bananas, oatmeal, and cottage cheese are beneficial. They contain tryptophan, an amino acid used to create serotonin to relax the body and prepare it for sleep.
After you’ve reached a place of good, consistent sleep, you’ll notice how much it improves other areas of health. Sometimes people pay attention to their diet and exercise without giving much thought to how well they’re sleeping at night. The benefits of quality sleep work in tandem with other daily habits and make just as much of a difference in a person’s overall health.
Finding What Works for You
Exercise in the evening is one of many ways to improve your sleep routine. However, it differs from person to person. For some, it tires the body out and allows it to relax, while others feel too stimulated after they’ve exercised to have it do any good. If you prefer to keep your workouts to daylight hours, another way to establish a beneficial bedtime routine is by keeping track of what’s keeping you up at night.
By recording your sleep habits, determining what is a normal sleeping pattern, and rating your sleep level, you’ll be able to identify what may be holding you back from better sleep. For example, are you waking up frequently throughout the night? If so, check the temperature in the room. A room that’s too hot or too cold will keep you up at night and prevent you from experiencing deep sleep. Is it difficult to find a comfortable position when sleeping? Evaluate the condition of your pillow, mattress, and bedding. You may need to replace them with something new.
There are several factors that play a part in how well we sleep. The point of finding a routine that is customized to you is understanding which of these factors provide you with your most optimal sleep and what detractors make you skimp. Eliminate the negative conditions and habits as much as possible and adapt to what promotes healthy sleep by creating positive habits.
Lower the temperature in your room. Leave the electronics off in the hours leading up to bed. Or, try working out before sleep. List everything that is beneficial and prioritize your sleep as a significant part of your health.