In many ways, working out before bed seems ideal. You can enjoy a peaceful run outside without worrying about sweltering heat or fighting the morning rush. You don’t have to wait in line at the gym to use the equipment you want.
Best of all, for night owls, you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a morning run before you head to work.
Exercise, regardless of the time of day you do it, has numerous benefits, but nighttime workouts don’t have the best rep. Some studies say it’s fine to exercise before bed, while others deem it a recipe for restless nights and groggy mornings. But what if the only time you can squeeze in a workout is after dinner? Is working out before bed really that bad?
Here, we dive deeper to see if working out before bed actually has a negative impact on sleep quality.
Despite what conventional wisdom says, working out before bed isn’t that bad. The widely held belief is that exercise raises body temperature and heart rate, making it challenging to get a good night’s sleep. But recent research has disputed that theory.
A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that participants who exercised vigorously late at night slept just as well as they did on a night when they didn’t exercise. In fact, the proportion of NREM sleep was greater on the night that participants exercised, which suggests that they were able to get deep sleep despite exercising before bed.
Additionally, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that people who exercised at any time of day slept better than those who didn’t exercise at all.
These findings are indicative of the positive effects of exercising at night, but it’s important to note that you shouldn’t try to go to bed immediately after working out. Exercise leads to a spike in cortisol and adrenaline levels, causing you to feel energetic and keyed-up, neither of which are ideal for falling asleep fast. However, leaving an hour or two between your exercise routine and your bedtime might be your secret to locking in a good night’s rest.
Despite the advantages, it's crucial to consider potential stumbling blocks of late-night workouts:
A nighttime workout is better for you than you might think. Not only does it not impact sleep quality, but it also has several other benefits. Here are a few of them.
There’s no worse feeling than dragging yourself out of bed at 5 a.m. when it’s the last thing you want to do. While some people prefer a morning working routine, others may find that it takes them a while to shake off the sluggishness and actually get going. This could even result in a less effective workout.
However, that may not be the case when you’re working out before bed. This is because your body temperature increases later in the day, causing you to feel more energetic. One study even found that participants’ exercise performance was 20% greater in the evening than in the morning, which means they didn’t tire easily and were able to have a more effective workout.
Exercise is a great way to let off some steam, and it can be doubly effective when you do it after a long and stressful day. Whether you need to let go of professional or personal frustrations, working out at night can help you de-stress so that you don’t take your anger or worries to bed with you.
In general, exercising releases endorphins, promoting an overall sense of calm and relaxation. This can help you get a more restful night’s sleep, particularly if you struggle with nighttime anxiety.
Besides losing weight and improving mental health, one of the biggest benefits of exercise is that it can lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Regular exercise at any time of day can help you reap all those benefits, but a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found working out before bed may be even more effective.
The study, which was conducted on a group of obese individuals with type 2 diabetes, showed that participants who did some resistance training before dinner were able to reduce the sugar levels in their blood. However, participants who exercised after dinner reduced both sugar and fat levels.
Working out before bed might not necessarily disrupt sleep, especially if you time it correctly. As research has shown, exercising at least 90 minutes before bedtime can help promote deeper, more restorative sleep.
However, if you’re concerned that high-intensity exercises might get in the way of a good night’s rest, try doing moderate or light exercises at night. Ultimately, some form of physical activity is more effective for improving sleep quality than no exercise at all.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of working out before bed is the convenience of being able to do it on your own terms.
While exercising in the morning can certainly help you start your day off on the right foot, it also means waking up much earlier, eating a quick protein bar for breakfast, and scurrying to work right after your workout. In short, it can be a hectic routine, especially if you’re someone who prefers to follow a more relaxed pace in the mornings.
On the other hand, working out before bed means you can have a relaxed morning, hit the gym when you have free time in the evening, and go home to unwind.
Fueling your body post-workout is essential, even at night. Here's what you should keep in mind:
The relationship between evening workouts and sleep quality is complex and varies from person to person. While some find that a pre-bed workout helps them sleep better, others may experience the opposite effect.
Exercise, in general, promotes better sleep by reducing stress and helping regulate your sleep-wake cycle. However, high-intensity workouts close to bedtime could have a stimulating effect, making it harder to fall asleep.
To find your sweet spot, consider the type, intensity, and timing of your workout, along with your individual responses. If evening workouts leave you feeling too energized, try shifting them earlier in the day or switch to calming activities like yoga or stretching before bed.
Though exercise can help you get a better night’s rest, there may be times when you try working out before bed and find that you just can’t go to sleep. But this doesn’t mean you need to try to fit a morning workout into your routine or forgo your fitness regimen altogether.
If you find that you can’t fall asleep after exercising, then the chances are that you just haven’t made the time to unwind properly. Here are some of our top tips to help you get prepped for bed after your evening workout.
When it’s 9 p.m., and you’re still at the gym, you might be itching to abandon your workout and head to bed. But it’s essential to take the time to wind down before you sleep.
When you’re working out before bed, consider setting aside a few minutes to do some stretching or cool-down exercises. Then, follow through with your nighttime routine as you normally would. The key is to feel relaxed, so take a shower, slip on your coziest pair of pajamas, and drink a glass of cold water. To ensure your body temperature isn’t raised, it can also be helpful to adjust your thermostat so that your bedroom is optimized for sleep.
Low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, are a great alternative to cardio or HIIT workouts when you’re exercising at night. Because yoga combines relaxing movements with mindful breathing techniques, it can improve the quality of your sleep and help you unwind faster.
If you’re working out before bed, you’re likely exercising after you’ve already eaten dinner. While this can give you the boost of energy you need to get through your workout, it might also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night with a rumbling stomach.
Not eating anything after exercising can impede recovery, so try to have a light snack at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. To fall asleep faster, consider opting for nutritious foods that help you sleep. Certain snacks, such as a turkey sandwich, chicken salad, or eggs, are all high in tryptophan. Tryptophan increases the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.
To get a good night’s sleep, it’s essential to maintain good sleep hygiene. This means putting away your screens before bedtime, limiting caffeine intake throughout the day, and going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
When it comes to sleep, it’s also a good idea to invest in your rest. A foolproof way to sleep better is to ensure you have the most comfortable mattress. A hybrid mattress is a great choice because it combines the support of a traditional innerspring mattress with the comfort of memory foam. A hybrid mattress is also designed to provide total pressure relief and alleviate aches and pains.
The reality is working out before bed isn’t necessarily any better or worse than exercising in the morning. The best time to exercise is whenever you’re able to do it. Ultimately, the key to achieving your health goals and seeing the fitness results you want is consistency.
If you know that you won’t regularly be able to wake up at 6 a.m. for a workout, then exercise at night. Either way, as long as you’re able to squeeze in a workout at some point during the day, your body and mind will thank you for it.
In conclusion, working out before bed comes with a unique set of benefits and challenges. It's about understanding your body, making mindful choices, and tailoring your routine to serve your fitness goals and sleep needs simultaneously. After all, a good night's sleep and a healthy body are two sides of the same coin.
Do you workout at night? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.